Peterborough Phantoms saw their dreams of silverware left in tatters after suffering a ‘total collapse’ in the opening leg of the English Premier League Cup final last night (March 2).
The city team tumbled to a 9-1 defeat at the hands of red-hot Guildford Flames – the heaviest loss of Slava Koulikov’s fine reign as coach.
It was the worst imaginable occasion to produce the worst possible performance and means tonight’s second leg at Planet Ice will be nothing more than an exercise in salvaging some massively dented pride.
“We were very, very poor in every zone, with and without the puck,” said a seething Koulikov.”It was a total collapse,”
“We just didn’t play in the way we have played for the last six months. I’m very disappointed to have this kind of performance from the players on such a big night.
“Everything was wrong. We didn’t stick to the gameplan, we had far too many breakdowns and we conceded at terrible times.
“We talk about being accountable for everything we do and that went out of the window.
“I always defend my guys and put myself under the spotlight, but last night the team didn’t perform and we need to resolve why that was.
“Life goes on and games come really quickly, and what is important is how we react.
“There is no doubt we have to come out and perform in our rink tonight.
“We need to play our hockey, win or lose, and battle for everything.”
Recent form and the EPL standings (where these two teams can be found locked together on the same number of points in second and third places) pointed to a tight, tense tussle for glory.
Guildford (and Phantoms for that matter) clearly failed to read that script.
Flames import Marcus Kristoffersson provided the only breakthrough of the first period and the hosts later squandered a penalty shot as Janis Ozolins failed to beat namesake Auzins.
Phantoms also failed to take a gilt-edged chance as Milan Baranyk missed the target with 20 seconds of the opening session remaining and Koulikov’s men got few other opportunities as Flames ran riot for the final 40 minutes to all but clinch the cup crown.
Jez Lundin doubled their advantage when triggering a spell of three goals in little more than four minutes early in the middle stanza. Kristoffersson soon poached his second before Ozolins made amends for his penalty failure by striking in open play.
Phantoms did receive a few minutes of respite until Ben Campbell kept the scoreboard ticking over with three-and-a-half minutes of a miserable session remaining.
But things barely got any better in the third period as Guildford grabbed another four goals to ensure Marc Levers’ powerplay effort was nothing more than the most meagre of consolations for Phantoms.
They twice conceded to Jens Eriksson before Levers interrupted the hosts’ flow just past the mid-point of the session.
But it wasn’t the cue for a rousing finish as Ozolins and Tom Duggan provided more torment on a night of torture which was summed up when Will Weldon talked himself into a 10-minute misconduct penalty.
Phantoms owner Dave Lane took to social media to thank a healthy away following.
“That was not the result any Phantoms fans wanted,” tweeted Lane. “But a BIG thanks for the faithful who made the road trip tonight. Thanks for the support.”
The teams meet again in Bretton tonight (8pm). Guildford would be well advised to leave enough space on their coach to take a shiny trophy on the journey home.
7:30 Kristoffersson ass: Campbell/Eriksson
23:01 Lundin ass: Towe/Phillips
25:37 Kristoffersson ass: Eriksson
27:23 Ozolins ass: Campbell
36:30 Campbell ass: Duggan/Meyers
41:56 Eriksson ass: Towe/Kristoffersson
49:30 Eriksson ass: Ozolins/McKinney
54:20 Ozolins ass: Towe/Meyers
57:59 Duggan ass: Ozolins/Meyers
50:27 Levers (PP) ass: Baranyk/Scott
Guildford – Marcus Kristoffersson
Phantoms – Lloyd Gibson