Peterborough Phantoms preserved their five-point cushion at the top of the English Premier League standings by coming through a marathon against Manchester last night (December 20).
The city side reached the halfway point of their sparkling season with a 3-2 success over the short-benched and struggling Phoenix at their temporary Deeside base after a penalty shoot-out that required 16 shots.
The two sides had earlier shared four goals with Phantoms twice failing to hold advantages in a game every bit as tough as coach Slava Koulikov predicted.
But they emerged in possession of a fourth successive victory – a run which has enabled them to make a break on the chasing EPL pack.
Koulikov said: “Two wins this weekend is a great way to sign off for the holiday season.
“I did say beforehand that it would be a tough game in Manchester even though they are so short on bodies.
“We used a lot of energy in a tough game against Guildford the previous night and then had a lot of travelling to get to Deeside whereas Manchester hadn’t played on Saturday.
“The main thing is getting the two points. Manchester certainly did enough to deserve their point too, but we got the extra one.”
Phantoms hit the front courtesy of an Ales Padelek strike in the opening session and there were no further changes to the scoreline until close to the mid-point of the final period.
Robin Kovar, one of two remaining Manchester imports, hauled the home side level before Phantoms restored their advantage within 90 seconds courtesy of Milan Baranyk.
Kovar responded again on a powerplay to ensure the clash went to overtime where neither side could break through again - and they also had considerable difficulty in finding the net in the shoot-out!
Michal Satek successfully converted Manchester’s first penalty shot before Baranyk replied with Phantoms’ third effort to send the clash to sudden-death.
But it wasn’t until Will Weldon obliged with the 15th attempt of the shoot-out that the lamp was lit again.
And when Trent Hope missed for the hosts, it proved to be enough to secure the extra point.
Phantoms now face a mouth-watering Christmas derby double against Milton Keynes. They travel to the third-placed Lightning on Boxing Day (6pm) ahead of a return clash at Planet Ice the following night (December 27, 5.30pm).
They then have back-to-back clashes against second-placed Basingstoke to start the new year.
49:10 Kovar ass: Satek/Archer
54:16 Kovar ass: Satek/Thomas
11:57 Padelek ass: Baranyk/Norton
50:39 Baranyk ass: Padelek/McGiffin
Manchester – Robin Kovar
Phantoms – Ales Padelek