A fabulous year full of highs has ended on a low note for Peterborough Phantoms.
Back-to-back English Premier League defeats at the hands of fiercest rivals Milton Keynes certainly won’t have been the way the city men would have liked to see out a memorable 2015.
But a 4-2 defeat in front of a full house in Bretton last night (December 27) followed hot on the heels of defeat by the same scoreline in Buckinghamshire on Boxing Day.
Their cause wasn’t helped by injury, illness and unavailability which robbed them of the services of key players for either parts or all of a weekend in which they drew a rare blank.
Forward Eddie Bebris missed both games with a fractured little finger while defenceman Cam McGiffin managed only a brief appearance in the opening period of the away reverse before sustaining a hip injury that ruled him out last night.
And coach Slava Koulikov revealed he cleared import forward Ales Padelek to miss the Boxing Day clash after returning to his native Czech Republic for family reasons.
Padelek was back last night, but was unable to prevent Phantoms completing an unwanted double.
It was one of those action-packed derby games that had everything – goals, fights, a referee injury and a malfunctioning scoreboard – to entertain those packed into Planet Ice.
The only thing missing was the result Phantoms wanted, and which their performance deserved according to Koulikov.
He said: “Having players out certainly didn’t help because we are a team where everyone is a main guy.
“We didn’t deserve to get anything in Milton Keynes as they were better than us in every aspect of the game.
“It was a little bit different last night as we battled for everything and out-played MK in the second and third periods, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
“We just couldn’t get the goals we needed and that is something we have to look at. We’ve got a couple of import guys struggling a bit at the moment and with Eddie injured it made our job harder.
“MK hadn’t been in great form lately, but I have to give them full credit for getting the four points. It highlights again how tough this league is this season.
“I’m fed up of talking about being top in all honesty as it doesn’t bother me at all. All I’m interested in is regrouping and focusing on the next game.”
Most of the action arrived in the opening session last night with scuffles and goals coming thick and fast.
Barely four minutes had passed before Tom Norton exchanged blows with former Phantoms man Jordan Cownie and fists flew again when Marc Levers reacted angrily to a needless punch from Lewis Christie. The Lightning defenceman learned his lesson after being on the receiving end of a barrage of blows from the normally mild-mannered Levers.
Young Martins Susters bundled Phantoms ahead when managing to jab in a Craig Scott pass, but they were pegged back only a couple of minutes later as Frantisek Bakrlik pounced to beat netminder Janis Auzins, who was playing through illness for the second successive night.
A classy shot on the turn from Lewis Hook completed the turnaround, but the Lightning lead lasted only 22 seconds until Padelek struck following a fine surge around the back of the net from Milan Baranyk.
The visitors hit the front again when Bakrlik rifled in during a spell of four-on-three powerplay and there were no further changes to the scoreline until Adam Carr raced away to tap into an empty net with seven seconds remaining on the clock.
In between those last two Lightning goals, their netminder Dean Skinns earned his man-of-the-match gong with some fine work – particularly as Phantoms upped the ante in their chase for a leveller during the final half of the final period.
Things are not about to get any easier as Phantoms will see in 2016 with two top-of-the-table clashes against Basingstoke next weekend. The Bison could take over in top spot with victory in Guildford today (December 28).
Phantoms hit the road for Hampshire on Saturday (January 2, 6.30pm) ahead of a Planet Ice return clash the following night (January 3, 5.30pm).
6:23 Susters ass: Scott/Moore
14:20 Padelek ass: Baranyk/Gibson
8:33 Bakrlik ass: Tahtinen/Cownie
13:58 Hook (DP) ass: Bakrlik/Chamberlain
16:12 Bakrlik (PP) ass: Jamieson/Cownie
59:53 Carr ass: Griffin/Farn
Phantoms – Craig Scott
Milton Keynes – Dean Skinns