ICE HOCKEY: Festive cheer for table-topping Phantoms

Two-goal Lloyd Gibson in action for Phantoms against Hull. Picture: Tom Scott

Two-goal Lloyd Gibson in action for Phantoms against Hull. Picture: Tom Scott

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Four goals to complete a four-point weekend which carried Peterborough Phantoms three points clear at the top of the English Premier League . . . well ‘tis the season to be jolly!

And Christmas appears to have arrived at Planet Ice a couple of weeks ahead of schedule following another fine weekend in the city club’s fabulous season.

A smooth 4-0 success over newboys Hull in a top-versus-bottom clash last night (December 13) - which featured a 31-shot shut-out for netminder Janis Auzins - completed another cracking couple of days for Phantoms, following hot on the heels of their away triumph at then-leaders Basingstoke 24 hours earlier.

It all means they are now firm favourites to still be sitting top of the EPL tree when presents are being opened and turkey is being scoffed.

No doubt the cost of the phone call to France to deliver such good news to coach Slava Koulikov, away with the Great Britain Under 20 team along with defenceman Cam McGiffin, will have been worth every penny.

Development coach Lee Elias, who took charge along with Alex Kulikov this weekend, said: “I give full credit to the players for both results this weekend.

“Coaches stand on the bench and run the lines, but it comes down to how the guys play the game on the ice.

“We knew we had to be focused against a Hull team improving all the time. We know from our own results, and those elsewhere, that any team can beat any other in this league right now.

“We put in a full 60-minute performance to win the game.

“The league table will take care of itself. As far as we are concerned it is always about the next game and the next two points.

“It is an approach which has served us well so far and hopefully that will continue to be the case.

“Slava is aware of how our weekend went and is very satisfied with it. We’re just looking forward to getting him back now!”

Phantoms were two goals to the good by the end of the opening session, both of which were the result of impressive execution from Lloyd Gibson after some imaginative creation from Milan Baranyk. The second also featured a slick Tom Norton pass to the goalscorer.

They further tightened their grip on the game only 61 seconds into the middle session thanks to a memorable moment in the career of Greg Pick.

The popular defenceman plundered a first-ever goal in senior hockey when his blast from distance flummoxed Pirates netminder Marty Raitums.

It arrived just over a month after he thought he had achieved the same feat in Hull’s previous visit to Planet Ice, but the blue-line blast he was initially credited with scoring on that occasion was later handed to team-mate Edgars Bebris, who had deflected the puck on its journey to the back of the net.

But there was no doubt the legitimacy of his effort last night and it was celebrated by player and team-mates alike in fittingly exuberant style.

The final Phantoms goal was scored by Darius Pliskauskas on a powerplay late in the second period and featured a helping hand from milestone man James Ferrara.

After marking his club record-equalling 415th game in Phantoms colours with a winning goal in Basingstoke the previous night, the captain had to content himself with an assist when leapfrogging fellow long servant Shaun Yardley to top the all-time appearance chart last night.

Ferrara had been rewarded for his loyalty and longevity with a pre-game presentation from owners Dave and Jo Lane. The warm applause from supporters, team-mates and opponents alike is the very least this local boy done good deserves.

There were no further additions to the Phantoms tally in a final session in which there was very little action of any note.

The game ended with a hint of bad blood as youngster James White collected 14 minutes worth of penalties for check-from-behind and roughing offences on Pirates player-coach Dominic Osman.

Hull’s Nathan Salem then provided further agitation with a needless piece of boarding which led to a few exchanges of words, but the only time the gloves came off was during the post-game handshakes.

Phantoms are back on home ice on Saturday (December 19) when they entertain Guildford (7pm). Their final trip of the regular season to Deeside follows the following night (December 20) as they face Manchester Phoenix (6.30pm).

Coach Koulikov and McGiffin are set to return for those clashes following their World Championships (Division 1B) duty in France.

The GB Under 20 side made a winning start with a 3-2 overtime success over the top-ranked Slovenian side, but then crashed 9-3 against Poland in their second outing.

MATCH DETAILS

Goals

Phantoms

8:14 Gibson ass: Baranyk

14:09 Gibson ass: Norton/Baranyk

21:01 Pick ass: Weldon

38:10 Pliskauskas (PP) ass: Levers/J. Ferrara

Hull

None

Men-of-the-match

Phantoms – Lloyd Gibson

Hull – Warren Tait