Peterborough Phantoms were powerless to prevent the English Premier League title being won at Planet Ice last night (February 28).
The city rink was the scene for big-spending, table-topping Telford Tigers’ inevitable crowning as champions as they edged a ding-dong duel by the odd goal in nine.
But their 5-4 success ultimately proved academic as a loss for second-placed Guildford in Basingstoke ended the Flames’ faint hopes of snatching the silverware.
And news of that result in Hampshire filtering through was the trigger for a travelling army of Tigers fans to erupt in delight with a couple of minutes of their own team’s contest remaining.
Wild celebrations on and off the ice were no doubt tough for Phantoms to watch after they had slipped to a fourth successive defeat despite clawing their way level on four occasions.
Player-coach Koulikov said: “It was a brilliant game to be involved in. Telford came here to win the title and they did it.
“We didn’t want it to happen in our building and we did well to come back four times, but that is the fastest and sharpest I have seen them all season.
“Both teams made some mistakes that led to goals and maybe we just made one too many, but that happens in sport.
“I’m happy with the performance because our guys played well – I’m just disappointed not to get any points.
“It is another defeat but that doesn’t worry me at all as we are moving in the right direction towards the play-offs.”
Koulikov hit the first Phantoms leveller early on before Darius Pliskauskas struck his first goal since returning from injury in the second minute of the second period.
Edgars Bebris restored parity again on a delayed penalty later in the middle session and a powerplay rocket from Donatas Kumeliauskas did the honours to bring Phantoms level for a fourth time in the final period.
But a strike from Telford man Nathan Salem proved decisive as Phantoms could not come up with another response. Visiting netminder Tom Murdy used everything from his skate to his helmet to keep them at bay before Pliskauskas fired over in the final few seconds.
Scott McKenzie had earlier struck twice for the new champions with import Peter Szabo and ex-Peterborough man Joe Miller also finding the net.
Phantoms remain fifth in the EPL standings as they travel to outgoing champions Manchester tonight (March 1).
The Phoenix are four points behind them with the two teams also due to meet next weekend.
5:35 Koulikov ass: L. Ferrara/Norton
21:41 Pliskauskas ass: Norton
33:14 Bebris (DP) ass: Baranyk/Weldon
44:46 Kumeliauskas (PP) ass: Norton/J. Ferrara
2:20 McKenzie ass: Plant
11:23 Szabo ass: Zajac/Weaver
24:22 McKenzie unassisted
41:36 Miller (PP) ass: Birbraer/Davies
47:16 Salem ass: Weaver
Phantoms – Tom Norton
Telford – Scott McKenzie