All the pressure is now on Lightning to strike

Phantoms netminder Janis Auzins protects the puck from Telfords Warren Tait. Picture: Tom Scott

Phantoms netminder Janis Auzins protects the puck from Telfords Warren Tait. Picture: Tom Scott

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Phantoms captain James Ferrara insists all the pressure will be on fierce rivals Milton Keynes in the English Premier League Cup final.

Ferrara is perfectly happy for the city men to be billed as underdogs when taking on Lightning for the trophy over two legs.

The games are yet to be scheduled, but Phantoms will stage the opening clash at Planet Ice. It is likely to take place in a midweek slot towards the end of February.

And Ferrara is delighted to have the opportunity to right the wrong of 2016 when Phantoms suffered a final nightmare at the hands of Guildford.

They crashed 9-1 in the opening leg and lost 12-6 on aggregate to a Flames side who also beat them in the play-off semi-finals later in the campaign.

Ferrara said: “We’re all very proud to have reached the final again and we won’t be dwelling on what happened last season. That was a freak result and we still can’t explain what went wrong to this day.

“We have a lot of different guys here now this season and we will obviously hope for a much better outcome this time.

“MK are above us in the table and reached the final much more easily than we did, but we pride ourselves on being difficult to play against and we’ll do all we can to come out on top.

“All the pressure is on MK and I’m perfectly happy for people to view us as underdogs. I don’t mind that at all.

“It is essential we pick up the two points in our building and we showed at Christmas that we are capable of winning in MK.

“They will be two big occasions and I’m sure everyone at MK is looking forward to the final as much as we are.”

Ferrara admitted it was a ‘weird feeling’ for Phantoms to celebrate reaching the final after being on the receiving end of a heavy defeat in the second leg of their semi showdown against table-toppers Telford.

The use of a points-based system rather than aggregate scorelines meant Phantoms were at least going to overtime even before the match started.

Ferrara addded: “It was a weird feeling to have something to celebrate after a result like that, but I was always confident that we would get the result if the game went to penalties.

“Janis has come up big for us so many times, and he did it again in Telford.”

Securing an EPL Cup final spot means Phantoms have already exceeded one of their targets for 2016/17.

And they are well on the way to achieving the other one too – a top-four finish in the league.

“Top four finishes in the league and cup standings were the broad aims,” continued Ferrara. “We’ve managed to get to the final of the cup, and I’ll be disappointed if we don’t manage at least fourth place in the league from the position we’re now in.

“I think holding onto third is a realistic goal and we’ll try to put ourselves into a position where we can take advantage if either of the top two start slipping up.”