Heroes all over the ice as Peterborough Phantoms reach a cup final in thrilling fashion
The night of January 31 will be forever etched into history due to a major exit . . . but not where Peterborough Phantoms are concerned.
That’s because the silverware-hunting city men are still very much in the NIHL National Cup after booking their place in the final in thrilling style.
An 8-6 triumph in an action-packed second leg at Planet Ice completed a 12-8 aggregate verdict against Hull in a high-scoring semi-final showdown – and also earned a large helping of revenge for their NIHL Grand Final defeat at the hands of the Pirates last term.
It was hard-hitting, heart-attack hockey at its finest with goals galore, the odd slice of controversy and a predictable loss of discipline as Hull man Bobby Chamberlain was thrown out late on for fighting when his side’s fate was apparent.
Phantoms were excellent to a man with hat-trick hero Petr Stepanek spearheading a powerful attacking effort that included a whole host of other stellar contributions, while back-up netminder Ryan Bainborough was a worthy man-of-the-match after being thrust into the biggest game of his career with regular goalie Jordan Marr missing due to what head coach Slava Koulikov called ‘personal reasons’.
Unsurprisingly Koulikov was quick to dish out the plaudits for his heroes on the ice – and the army of fans who turned out in force to create a terrific atmosphere.
“I’m very pleased for the guys, the organisation as a whole and all of our fans to be through to the final,” said Koulikov.
“It was an amazing game to watch and I think everyone got their money’s worth – if not double!
“The turnout was brilliant and the support was brilliant from before the game to moment the guys left the ice at the end of the night.
“Hull are an unbelievable team with a huge amount of offense and it is a great achievement to be able to beat them over two legs.
“We told the guys that we had to forget about the lead on aggregate as it would be impossible to defend against a team of Hull’s quality.
“We felt we would still need to score five or six goals last night to get through and fortunately we managed to come up with eight.
“All of the guys did a great job and Ryan was unbelievable in such a big game. I can’t praise him enough.
“I feel like I lost six months of my life during that game, but it was a great night and we have to cherish the moment.”
Corey McEwen followed up his first-leg hat-trick with an early opener when putting away a perfect Ales Padelek pass.
The veteran Czech ace then appeared to double the lead when forcing in a rebound only for the officials to wash out the goal.
Phantoms’ frustration grew as Hull player-coach Jason Hewitt fired in a leveller on a powerplay with the first of his four goals on the night, but there was no denying Padelek as he pounced on his own rebound to strike from a tight angle.
But if the first period was already exciting, the entertainment level went through the roof in a seven-goal middle session.
Five of those strikes arrived in less than four-and-a-half minutes as the two sides traded blows.
McEwen added his second of the night – and fifth of the tie – 55 seconds into the period and that was soon followed by a Stepanek effort.
Hewitt and Jonathan Kirk then struck in the space of 23 seconds to drag Hull back into contention only for Stepanek to restore some sort of order at the other end.
Hewitt then completed his treble to bring Hull, who were missing a handful of injured players including import forward Matt Bissonnette, back to within one goal on the night, but Phantoms again had an answer as Will Weldon combined superbly with Conor Pollard to finish.
That left the city men in possession of a four-goal aggregate cushion going into the final period – and they emerged with it still intact.
Stepanek completed his treble by tucking away a James Ferrara pass just 38 seconds after the action resumed but that was followed by another Hewitt reply half-a-minute later.
Padelek then added the final Phantoms goals with almost 15 minutes still to play and they saw out the remainder of the contest in a controlled manner.
Hull did hit back through Matty Davies on a powerplay but they were cast too far adrift to trouble a Phantoms side who will now do battle with Telford (the penalty shoot-out conquerors of Swindon in the other semi in midweek) for the trophy.
New recruit Joe Hazeldine featured for Phantoms after joining on loan from Elite League side Nottingham Panthers for the rest of the season, but they lost fellow defenceman Robbie Ferrara to a nasty cut to the chin in the final period.
Phantoms return to league action tomorrow (February 2) when hosting Swindon at Planet Ice (5.30pm).
3.08 McEwen ass: Padelek/J. Ferrara
10.21 Padelek ass: Billing/R. Ferrara
20.55 McEwen ass: Stepanek/Susters
23.06 Stepanek ass: McEwen/Susters
25.18 Stepanek ass: Susters
34.40 Weldon ass: C. Pollard/N. Pollard
40.38 Stepanek ass: J. Ferrara/R. Ferrara
45.10 Padelek ass: McEwen/Norton
7.02 (PP) Hewitt ass: Norris/Davies
23.31 Hewitt ass: Archer/Heywood
23.53 Kirk ass: Davies/Chamberlain
31.57 Hewitt ass: Norris
41.08 Hewitt ass: Norris/Kirk
56.17 Davies (PP) ass: Kirk/Norris
PHANTOMS – Ryan Bainborough
HULL – Jason Hewitt