A breathtaking clash came complete with a brilliant result as Peterborough Phantoms sampled home glory for the second successive night (March 15).
Player-coach Slava Koulikov slammed in a powerplay winner as the city side overcame English Premier League runners-up Guildford in arguably the most exciting match of the season at Planet Ice last night (Sunday).
And this 5-4 triumph – just like an overtime success against Sheffield the previous night – was secured despite key personnel being absent.
While netminder Janis Auzins did return from a Saturday night off, defenceman Cameron McGiffin and Scott Robson, and forward Edgars Bebris were all sidelined as they rested knocks with the play-offs in mind.
“I’m very proud of the guys to have won two games in a weekend when we have had important guys missing,” said Koulikov.
“Both teams played very well last night in a game full of chances and we came out on top with a game-winner on the powerplay.
“To take more of the points in a six-game series against a big team like Guildford is a very satisfying achievement. Every player gave everything and the three import forwards all played like leaders for the team.
“That’s three wins in a row and it is great for our momentum going into the play-offs. Hopefully we can just get the guys who were out back onto the ice.”
Only a stunning display from Flames netminder James Hadfield prevented Phantoms from running riot in the opening session last night.
They bombarded the visiting target with 26 efforts but only had a fortuitous opener to show for their efforts as a Luke Ferrara pass veered into the net off the stick of Flames defenceman Jez Lundin.
Guildford levelled as Ben Campbell put a goal on a plate for the legendary David Longstaff – one of only five efforts on the net of Auzins they managed in the opening session.
The excitement continued during the second session as Phantoms marched ahead with two goals in under two minutes only to be pegged back.
Ferrara grabbed his second after a Koulikov shot had been saved and the player-coach then provided a slick pass from Darius Pliskauskas to tap in.
But back came the Flames within seconds as a Roman Tvrdon effort sneaked past Auzins before a well-worked powerplay routine led to Marcus Kristofferson blasting in a leveller.
This time it was Phantoms’ turn to provide the rapid response as parity lasted for just 15 seconds before Pliskauskas classily restored the advantage.
Guildford were back on terms again when Tom Duggan touched in a Kristoffersson shot in the final session, but the contest was eventually settled in Phantoms’ favour by Koulikov as hired through Hadfield in a five-on-three situation with little more than five minutes to go.
Phantoms remain fourth in the EPL standings and are now certain to face Swindon in the quarter-finals of the play-offs.
They also take on the Wildcats on Saturday (March 21) in the final weekend of the regular season when making a trip to Wiltshire.
They complete their campaign with a home clash against fierce rivals Milton Keynes on Sunday (March 22).
3:06 L. Ferrara unassisted
26:46 L. Ferrara ass: Koulikov/Pliskauskas
28:33 Pliskauskas ass: Koulikov/Norton
37:36 Pliskauskas ass: Koulikov/R. Ferrara
54:09 Koulikov (PP) ass: L. Ferrara/J. Ferrara
13:56 Longstaff ass: Campbell
28:45 Tvrdon ass: Kohut
37:21 Kristofferson ass: Lundin/Kvetan
46:11 Duggan ass: Kristofferson/Kvetan
Phantoms – Darius Pliskauskas
Guildford – Ben Campbell