Friday, December 14, 2018 . . . a night that will live long in the memories of all connected to Peterborough Phantoms.
The city team lifted the NIHL Autumn Cup as a special occasion at Planet Ice was settled by a special strike from one of the club’s finest servants.
Player-coach Tom Norton, a man who recently passed the milestone of 300 Phantoms appearances, provided the decisive goal of seven on the night (and 11 on aggregate) with one of his trademark powerplay blockbusters as the resistance of opponents Sheffield Steeldogs was finally broken.
It might not be the biggest competition and it certainly isn’t the most elaborate trophy, but that mattered little to the estimated 900 people packed into Planet Ice to see a 4-3 (second leg) and 6-5 (aggregate) victory for an excellent team, a terrific coach and a devoted duo of owners.
Phantoms only actually led for just 21-and-a-half of the 120 minutes of this tie, but they were in front when it mattered most – and the margin of their triumph would have been considerably greater had it not been for brilliant Steeldogs netminder Dimitri Zimozdra.
Phantoms did everything but score while dominating the opening period.
The regular excellence of Zimozdra and the occasional reluctance of the city men to pull the trigger when in good shooting positions were the reasons for that.
A double-save to thwart Ales Padelek was the pick of the visiting goaltender’s contributions while opposite number Jordan Marr proved up to his only serious test of the first session when keeping out a Cam Brownley blast.
But the lack of goals was quickly addressed with the two sides sharing six of them in a breathless second period. The opening five arrived in a manic spell lasting little more than six minutes!
Phantoms fell behind as a short-handed breakaway from Steeldogs forward Brownley resulted in a shot which squirmed through Marr.
Will Weldon quickly levelled when tucking away a Jarvis Hunt pass before an equally precise Duncan Speirs finish regained the advantage
But Phantoms were in front 90 seconds later as a Petr Stepenak equaliser was soon followed by a go-ahead Glenn Billing goal which put Phantoms ahead for the first time in the tie.
Their advantage on the night - and on aggregate - lasted for just nine-and-a-half minutes as Brownley restored parity.
It was a goal featuring a large chunk of good fortune for the visitors as a shot missing the target was wickedly deflected in off the body of Phantoms defenceman Scott Robson.
Captain James Ferrara also found the net but his effort hit the twine a split-second after the buzzer sounded so didn’t count, but there was no doubt about the only goal of the final period as Norton unleashed a booming blast from just inside the blue-line.
It was always going to take something special to beat the inspired Zimozdra again and this strike certainly fell into that category.
The Steeldogs stopper had previously kept out Martins Susters,
Stepanek, Glenn Billing, Ferrara and Norton before being powerless to prevent the latter’s rocket from flying in.
Phantoms netminder Marr then made a couple of important saves as Sheffield searched for a leveller - eventually sacrificing Zimozdra in favour of an extra skater in the final minute.
But this was Phantoms’ night as they sampled the sweet feeling of lifting silverware in front of their own fans when collecting a first trophy of the campaign . . . and few would bet against them adding more.
23.59 Weldon ass: Pollard/Hunt
26.09 Stepanek ass: Weldon/Pollard
26.58 Billing ass: Padelek/J. Ferrara
48.10 Norton (PP) ass: Billing/J. Ferrara
20.52 Brownley (SH) ass: Morgan/Smith
25.28 Speirs ass: Hirst/Salem
36.29 Brownley ass: Charnock/Palak
PHANTOMS -Jordan Marr
SHEFFIELD - Dimitri Zimozdra