Peterborough Phantoms missed out on precious points in the race for second place in the English premier League last night (November 30).
The city side racked up an unwanted hat-trick when suffering a third defeat of the season at the hands of third-placed Basingstoke Bison.
Phantoms, who currently sit second, went down 5-2 in the final part of a home double-header which followed hot on the heels of a 5-4 triumph over reigning league champions Manchester the previous night.
They found play-off holders Bison a much tougher proposition in a match which exploded into life with a six-goal second session.
Basingstoke’s powerplay opener from Ciaran Long was cancelled out after just 19 seconds by Edgars Bebris, but a second Long goal followed by a deflected Aaron Connolly drive on a hotly-disputed numerical advantage established their superiority.
Phantoms responded as Darius Pliskauskas’ lofted shot through traffic flew past Basingstoke netminder Dean Skinns in the final second of a five-on-three advantage, but they were quickly cast two goals adrift again as Andy Melachrino coolly finished a clinical Bison breakaway.
Phantoms rallied in the final chapter but could find no way past Skinns despite carving out a series of excellent opportunities.
Will Weldon, Milan Baranyk and Bebris were all foiled and even when Skinns was beaten by an Edgars Apelis blast, the bar came to his rescue.
Phantoms eventually sacrificed their own netminder, Janis Auzins, in favour of an extra skater in the final minute, but any thoughts of a fairytale comeback were destroyed when Melachrino guided the puck into an empty net with 18 seconds remaining.
Maybe the presence of in-form forward Luke Ferrara might have made a difference for Phantoms had he not been on Elite League duty with Sheffield Steelers for the second successive night?
“Maybe it would,” admitted player-coach Slava Koulikov, who again took charge from the bench as he nurses a fractured wrist.
“Maybe I could have made a difference too with my great scoring record (he has managed only three goals this season)!
“It is always easy to look back after a game and say ‘what if this happened’ or ‘what if that happened’, but we had enough chances to get back into the game and couldn’t put them away.
“We are short-staffed at the moment and we have a couple of people playing who aren’t 100 per cent fit, but we have to go into battle with the players we have available to us.
“We fought hard in both games and we come out of a tough weekend with two more points.
“One both nights we have played well in the first and third periods, but it is disappointing that the second period is letting us down.
“It is something we have already spoken about and we will review it in more detail later in the week.”
Basingstoke’s second success of the season in the city allowed them to close within two points of Phantoms in the standings. They are also armed with five games in hand.
The two teams meet again in Hampshire on Saturday (December 6) ahead of a home clash for Phantoms against Swindon on Sunday (December 7).
Ferrara is expected to return for those games.
24:21 Bebris ass: Apelis/Baranyk
36:03 Pliskauskas (PP) ass: Norton/Baranyk
24:02 Long (PP) ass: Karpov/Sheppard
28:52 Long ass: Reynolds/Sheppard
32:38 Connolly (PP) ass: J. Baird/Rand
37:46 Melachrino ass: Karpov/Rounding
59:42 Melachrino (ENG) unassisted
Phantoms – Alan Lack
Basingstoke – Dean Skinns