Gritty rather than pretty but in-form Peterborough Phantoms beat the table toppers again
You could put your house on Peterborough Phantoms beating Bracknell with barely a moment of hesitation.
The city team have dropped only one point to the Bees in the last 34 meetings between the two sides stretching back to 2013.
Granted the Berkshire side were English Premier League strugglers for many of those clashes in a previous era, but the fact they’re now NIHL Division One South table-toppers has made no difference to Phantoms’ head-to-head domination.
Slava Koulikov’s men collected a 4-2 success last night (November 11) to follow up a 5-4 triumph on the pacesetters’ own ice three weeks ago and extend their unbeaten streak to 13 games in all competitions.
Twelve of those fixtures have ended in victories (an NIHL Autumn Cup semi-final deadlock at Swindon on Friday night the exception, but one that still clinched a final spot) with the latest success being earned by an excellent final period.
Martins Susters and Ales Padelek hit the crucial goals to settle a contest in which an earlier two-goal cushion established by Phantoms in the opening stanza was wiped out by the Bees in the second period.
Phantoms head coach Koulikov said: “We gave so much on Friday night to reach the cup final. It was physically and mentally draining, but we picked ourselves up again to beat the team sitting top-of-the-table only two days later.
“Bracknell were coming off a disappointing result the previous night and they came here with a plan to play aggressive hockey which they executed well.
“We scored two goals in the first period which were beautiful to watch from beginning to end, but Bracknell kept us on the back-foot for much of the second period.
“We addressed that in the locker room and the guys came out firing in the third period to get the goals that sealed another great result.
“It’s been a good few days to continue a really pleasing run. We’ve got ourselves into a final and we’ve got the win to league leaders to close the gap on them.
“We can only control our own destiny and we will continue to chip away one game at a time.”
It was gritty rather than pretty for much of the opening period, but Phantoms’ class eventually shone through as a slick passing move led to the breakthrough as Scott Robson pounced on a rebound after Nathan Pollard’s initial shot was saved.
The outstanding Robson again played a prominent role as Phantoms doubled their advantage little more than two minutes later. He stylishly brought the puck out of the defensive zone before feeding James White whose pass across goal was tucked away by Pollard.
Visiting netminder Danny Milton then produced a big save from Glenn Billing with seconds before the buzzer as the Bees were left rocking on the ropes.
But they were a different beast in the second period when a Phantoms star of last season played a pivotal role in bringing his current side level.
Defenceman Ed Knaggs struck with an early shot after Phantoms gave away the puck and another of his efforts led to Shaun Thompson’s powerplay leveller.
But Phantoms regained the initiative in the final session to complete an impressive double against the pacesetters.
Susters was perfectly placed to tuck away a smart Robson pass at the back door before he saw another ‘goal’ washed out due to the Bees’ net being off its moorings.
However, Phantoms didn’t have to wait long to stretch their advantage as import Ales Padelek struck on a powerplay following an almighty scramble.
Bracknell refused to wave the white flag and pulled netminder Milton with more than two-and-a-half minutes to go, but it was Phantoms who came closest to adding further goals as Corey McEwen hit the side-netting and Petr Stepanek fired inches wide of the gaping target.
After seeing off the table-toppers for the second time this season, Phantoms now face two other top-four sides this coming weekend.
They travel to Streatham on Saturday (November 17, 6.15pm) before entertaining Swindon on Sunday (November 18, 5.30pm).
16.43 Robson ass: Pollard/Weldon
18.56 Pollard ass: White/Robson
42.26 Susters ass: Robson/Norton
48.35 Padelek (PP): ass: J.Ferrara/Norton
23.25 Knaggs ass: Paynter/Galazzi
36.25 Thompson (PP) ass: Knaggs
PHANTOMS - WIll Weldon
BRACKNELL - Josh Smith