Peterborough Phantoms toppled the top team in the English Premier League last night (November 13).
While the 4-1 scoreline against Telford certainly doesn’t tell the full story of an engrossing and ultimately successful night at Planet Ice, it was a triumph for discipline, determination and an insatiable appetite for hard work.
Phantoms were outshot and often outplayed by their troubled visitors, who could have been forgiven for having their minds elsewhere with rumours of a financial crisis doing the rounds.
But Slava Koulikov’s men soaked up stacks of pressure from the powerful Tigers before claiming a notable scalp – condemning the league leaders to just a second loss of the season in regulation time in the process.
Coach Koulikov said: “It was a tough weekend for us, facing two of the top three teams in the league.
“We came out on the wrong end of a big battle in Hull on Saturday so it was brilliant to respond by beating the league leaders.
“There is talk of Telford having a financial crisis, but that didn’t come into our thinking.
“Our only focus was on trying to win the game against a team who played really hard hockey.”
Phantoms made an early breakthrough when Wehebe Darge rifled in during a frantic goalmouth scramble on a powerplay.
But their advantage was cancelled out later in the opening period when they allowed giant Doug Clarkson – a man who stands 6ft 5ins tall and tips the scales at more than 16-and-a-half stone – to ghost in unmarked at the back post and convert a smart Corey McEwen pass.
The deadlock remained until late in a second session dominated by the visitors, who set up camp in the Phantoms zone, so it came as something of a surprise when the hosts hit the front again.
Petr Stepanek earned and expertly converted a penalty shot to give Phantoms an unlikely edge and a similar pattern continued in the final session as they soaked up plenty of pressure before closing out a fine success.
Martins Susters gave them breathing space when firing an unstoppable shot past Ondrej Raszka before the Telford netminder was pulled with three-and-a-half minutes still to play.
And it was a bold tactic which backfired as Owen Griffiths brilliantly fired a clincher into an empty net from deep within his own zone.
Koulikov added: “I have to be honest and admit that Telford outplayed us in the second period, but we managed to come out of it in the lead and that was vital.
“They also had more of the puck in the final period as well, but we got the goals and close out a really pleasing result.
“It was the sort of team performance where every guy gave their all and no-one should be singled out.
“We worked hard, we fought for the puck and for each other, and we came out of it with two points.”
Phantoms have now won five of their last six games – a 6-3 loss in Hull last Saturday the only blip of late - and sit fifth in the EPL standings.
They hit the road this Saturday (November 19) when going to Guildford for a game which is also crucial to their prospects of reaching the semi-finals of the EPL Cup.
Then it’s a home showdown – and a quick chance for revenge - against high-scoring and high-flying Hull at Planet Ice on Sunday (5.30pm).
3:15 Darge (PP) ass: Pliskauskas/Levers
38:10 Stepanek (PS)
51:48 Susters unassisted
57:30 Griffiths (ENG) ass: Auzins
15:00 Clarkson ass: McEwen/Zajac
PHANTOMS – Robbie Ferrara
TELFORD – Michal Satek