Premier League - Phantoms won after Penalty Shootout: This was the match that had it all - apart from a fight.
A sloppy start, some slapstick defending, a rousing revival, a stunning comeback, a thrilling victory on penalties over the league leaders and some infuriating officiating. Throw those ingredients into the blender and you’re bound to get sporting gold.
And when you add two Peterborough Phantoms goals inside the final four minutes of the third period, to haul themselves level from 4-2 down, the plot of last night’s (October 31) English Premier League clash only gets better.
Now take into account that their third strike was the first senior goal of Scottish youngster Jordan Cownie’s career and that their equaliser arrived with just 32 seconds remaining on the clock after netminder Damien King had been pulled and you’ll begin to understand why this was a special night.
It didn’t always look that way though. In fact there were plenty inside the Peterborough Arena who feared a Halloween horror show was on the cards as Phantoms fell 3-1 down in a first period when their defence left a lot to be desired.
The visitors hit the front inside a minute and doubled their lead at 7:03 after being handed an opportunity on a plate by a slack pass from Phantoms man James Hutchinson.
The brilliant Tom Carlon rapidly halved the arrears just 37 seconds later but more weak defensive work allowed Phoenix to strike again after the puck squirmed free following a King save.
At that point this match could very easily have gone the same way as a recent home drubbing at the hands of reigning champions Guildford. Phantoms were outclassed 7-3 that night, but thankfully this one didn’t follow suit.
Phantoms crucially replied before the end of the opening session when Carlon turned provider with a glorious pass inside for red-hot Ondrej Lauko to lash home and register a seventh goal in his past four matches.
A fourth Manchester goal (which arrived the second a Phantoms bench penalty had been successfully killed) was an unfortunate blow in a second period that will be remembered for some mind-boggling refereeing calls.
Jurijs Solovjovs dished out three 10-minute misconduct penalties (two to Phantoms, one to the visitors) for offences that were far from obvious while generally losing control of a match which had been littered with poor decisions.
His linesmen were guilty on that front too after a series of awful offside calls, the vast majority of which went against the hosts.
Luckily for the men in stripes, there was no bad blood between the teams and no risk of the occasion getting out of hand.
Unluckily for Phantoms they couldn’t buy a goal in the middle stanza. They piled on the pressure, they shot from all angles, they forced Manchester netminder Steve Fone into several saves and peppered his pipes with countless other efforts, but they could not light the lamp.
The third period was actually quite a tame affair and Phantoms could have been forgiven for losing hope as the clock ticked down, but that’s when business really picked up.
Teenager Cownie was afforded time and space close to the Phoenix goal and punished the visitors by unleashing a blast to the near post which the otherwise outstanding Fone allowed to drop in at 56:14.
The city side still had it all to do and, with just over a minute on the clock, they sacrificed King while Manchester shrewdly attempted to kill any Phantoms momentum with a time-out.
It was the home side’s move which had the desired effect though as they dramatically levelled in an almighty goalmouth scramble.
Maris Ziedins sent in a shot which sparked havoc in front of the net, skipper Jeff Glowa was unable to bundle it in but main man Carlon certainly could to haul them level.
A point was the very least Panthers deserved for a display full of hunger and drive, and few would argue that the second point they eventually added to their collection was unjust either.
They were by far the more dangerous team in a breathless five minutes of overtime. Only a stunning recovery save from Fone prevented Carlon from settling the issue in Phantoms favour and there would have been no more fitting a match-winner.
Carlon was ‘head and shoulders above everyone else on the ice’ according to Phantoms coach Jon Kynaston. Presumably that wasn’t a reference to the fact he stands 6ft 4ins tall.
Carlon proved he is human after all though by dragging his penalty attempt wide as the match went the full distance, but that miss was sandwiched by successful strikes from Lauko and Luke Ferrara.
An eye-catching second home win in the space of four days and a climb into the EPL play-off spots was clinched at the other end by King who saved two of Manchester’s three penalties. He kept out the first from Michael Psurny and, crucially, the third when denying Ciaran Long.
Phantoms return to action this weekend when facing the two teams now below them in the standings. They travel to Sheffield Steeldogs on Saturday (7.30pm) before hosting bottom side Telford at the Peterborough Arena on Sunday (5.30pm).
7:40 Carlon ass Lauko/R. Ferrara
18:33 Lauko ass Carlon
59:28 Carlon ass Glowa/Ziedins
0:51 McKenzie ass: Hand
10:39 Flaten ass: Pozivil/Psurny
27:05 Flaten ass: Hand
Phantoms: Tom Carlon
Manchester: Steve Fone