Peterborough Phantoms emerged from defeat in a top-of-the-table showdown with their heads held high last night (November 23).
The second-placed city team pushed runaway English Premier League leaders Telford Tigers to the limit as they slipped to a 7-4 loss.
They delivered a battling display despite being without player-coach Slava Koulikov, who was reduced to orchestrating operations from the bench after suffering a fractured wrist in a derby success at Milton Keynes the previous night (November 22).
Phantoms briefly led the big-spending Tigers in the opening period through Alan Lack’s powerplay effort before finding themselves 4-1 adrift late in the middle stanza.
But a brace from Darius Pliskauskas either side of the second buzzer hauled them back into contention and gave the hosts a fright.
Telford responded with two goals of their own to take command again, but an Edgars Bebris strike ensured Phantoms remained in contention.
They pulled netminder Janis Auzins in a desperate bid to claw their way back level late on, but Telford import Peter Szabo hit a short-handed, empty net goal to seal their fate.
Koulikov, who could face up to six weeks out of action, said: “No coach is going to be happy after seeing his team lose a game, but there are plenty of positives to take from this result.
“We showed plenty of improvement on the performance in the home defeat against Telford and once again they needed an empty net goal to finish us off.
“They are only conceding an average of just over two goals per game and we managed to score four times, but the negative is that we gave their very strong powerplay unit too many opportunities. We needed a little bit more discipline to avoid penalties.
“But we have kept ourselves in both games against them and that is not something every team has managed.”
Defeat in Shropshire means Phantoms cannot now qualify for the latter stages of the British Challenge Cup competition involving English Premier League and English National League teams.
They have won only one of five games to date to count towards North Group standings.
Phantoms make a welcome return to home ice next weekend with back-to-back dates in Bretton. They host reigning champions Manchester on Saturday (November 29) and then face play-off holders Basingstoke the following night.
16:11 Miller ass: Wweaver/Silverthorn
28:05 Birbraer ass: Plant/Weaver
36:08 Miller ass: Szabo/Zajac
38:07 Silverthorn (PP) ass: Weaver/Zajac
47:12 McKenzie (PP) ass: Birbraer/Plant
50:00 Silverthorn ass: Szabo/Zajac
58:20 Szabo (SH, ENG) unassisted
12:35 Lack (PP) ass: Hutchinson/Bebris
38:27 Pliskauskas ass: Norton
42:45 Pliskauskas ass: Apelis
55:35 Bebris ass: J. Ferrara
Telford: Jason Silverthorn
Phantoms: Scott Robson