ICE HOCKEY: Phantoms fire a blank for the first time this season

Craig Scott gets a shot away for Phantoms. Picture: Alan Storer
Craig Scott gets a shot away for Phantoms. Picture: Alan Storer
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It was one of those nights for Peterborough Phantoms . . .

It was one of those nights for Peterborough Phantoms . . .

The city men were knocked off the top of the English Premier League after firing a first blank of the season last night (December 6).

A failure to find the net meant Slava Koulikov’s side slipped to defeat against in-form Swindon at Planet Ice by a solitary goal despite unleashing more than three times the number of efforts on goal managed by their visitors.

However, a 47-14 shot count in favour of Phantoms was rendered meaningless as the Wildcats successfully sat on a cushion provided by their player-coach Aaron Nell in the seventh minute.

Try as they might – and, for the record, they really did try – Phantoms just couldn’t come up with a response due to the odd bad bounce, the odd bit of bad finishing and the frequent brilliance of visiting netminder Stevie Lyle.

Six players had contributed seven goals between them the previous evening to conjure a memorable success in Guildford. Turn the clock forward 24 hours and the only thing being shared around the Phantoms team was the frustration of continually failing to beat an inspired last line of defence.

Lyle was equal to every shot he faced while plenty of others whistled past his target as Phantoms’ control of play could not be reflected in the scoreline.

He saved them from out wide and in close, he saved them up high and down low. And even when he was beaten, and the puck laid still in his crease begging to be fired into the net, Phantoms man Lloyd Gibson couldn’t get a telling touch in a spider-web of flailing sticks late on.

But coach Koulikov was far from despondent in his post-game assessment of a third defeat of the campaign in regulation time – incidentally the lowest tally of any team in the division.

He admitted: “We want to win every time we step onto the ice and we are disappointed when that doesn’t happen.

“But I felt we played pretty decent hockey and there are not many times a team will lose a game when out-shooting the opposition so heavily.

“We’re one of the highest-scoring teams in the league with games in hand on all other teams so I’m not going to worry about not managing to find the net for the first time in 23 games this season.

“If it happens four or five games running, it might become a concern, but certainly not after one night when we ran into a goalie in Stevie Lyle who was brilliant.

“I read reports of how well he played when helping Swindon beat MK on penalties on Saturday night and his form certainly rolled into last night.”

Lyle had already been extended several times before the Wildcats grabbed the only goal as Nell slotted past Janis Auzins.

It wasn’t long before tempers frayed as a mid-ice hit from Marc Levers – deemed legal by referee Matthew Thompson - put Swindon import Carlo Finucci out of the game.

Wildcats man Lee Bullas picked up a 10-minute misconduct penalty after making a beeline for Levers in the aftermarth and that was the first of many indiscretions from both sides in the closing minutes of the opening session.

A betting man would have parted with big money on tensions boiling over at that point, but tempers cooled sufficiently during the break and any further hints of trouble were few and far between.

The second period was the most even, in terms of shots at least, as Phantoms occupied Lyle with 11 efforts and Auzins was called into action seven times.

Those figures compared to respective tallies of 18-4 in the first period and 18-3 in the closing session, but Phantoms couldn’t catch a break. They could quite easily have carried on pummelling Lyle until the small hours and still not scored as they dropped to third in the standings.

Phantoms return to action on Saturday (December 12, 6.30pm) with a trip to face the Basingstoke side who replaced them in top spot. Bottom-of-the-table Hull visit Planet Ice the following day (5.30pm).

Koulikov will miss those matches along with defenceman Cam McGiffin due to their respective coaching and playing commitments with the Great Britain Under 20 team, who compete in their World Championship in France.

Koulikov’s father, Alex, and coach Lee Elias will take charge of team affairs with input from senior players.

MATCH DETAILS

Goals

Phantoms

none

Swindon

7:00 Nell ass: Hogg/Malasinski

Men-of-the-match

Phantoms – Tom Norton

Swindon – Stevie Lyle