Peterborough Phantoms coach Slava Koulikov was heartened by the performance of his tired team against tough, top-flight opposition last night (August 30).
The city side went down 7-3 to Elite League newcomers Manchester Storm, who already looked a slick outfit in only their second outing since being formed in the summer.
They were certainly too hot for Phantoms to handle at times with the high-class line of Vinny Scarsella, Matty Davies and Mat Sisca providing plenty of torment. Scarsella hit a hat-trick, Sisca bagged twice and Davies collected a stack of assists.
But Phantoms’ display wasn’t without positives at the end of a week in which they have been put through their paces on and off the ice.
They were more than a match for the visitors in the opening session and a Darius Pliskauskas strike ensured they went into the first break level.
There was another equaliser from Will Weldon in an exchange of goals early in the second period, but Phantoms trailed 4-2 by the end of that period.
Marc Levers halved their arrears 18 seconds into the final session with his third goal of the weekend, but Storm picked off their tiring hosts with three unanswered strikes – and they could have had several more.
Koulikov said: “Manchester are a solid Elite League team and I think they will do well.
“It was great experience to face them and I thought we played well against them for the first half of the game.
“I think tiredness showed in the end after a really tough week. We’ve had guys flying in and been on a very demanding two-day camp so it was no surprise there were a few mental mistakes here and there.
“Our reactions weren’t quite there as the game went on and that cost us goals at both ends of the ice.
“But the good thing is they are all correctable and, after a couple of days off, we will get back to work.”
Phantoms’ curtain-raising Saturday (August 29) clash against Solway Sharks ended in a 3-3 deadlock and was marred by an injury to highly-rated teenager James White.
He was taken to hospital after suffering a dislocated shoulder and bruising to the neck after hitting the boards awkwardly in the closing stages.
It was a second injury blow with defenceman Tom Norton taking no part in either weekend game due to a slight knee problem.
Pliskauskas put Phantoms ahead after 98 seconds and Levers doubled the lead three seconds before the mid-point of the match.
A powerplay effort from Struan Tonnar early in the final session halved Solway’s arrears, but Levers quickly responded with a third Phantoms goal.
But the lower-level visitors came roaring back with Martin Cingel and Steven Moore firing them level before they pressed for a winner when on the powerplay for the final 84 seconds of the game.
Koulikov had withdrawn imports Pliskuaskas, Milan Baranyk and Ales Padelek after one period with netminder Janis Auzins being replaced by Dan Lane after Phantoms’ second goal.
Phantoms take on fierce rivals Milton Keynes next weekend in the traditional eve-of-the-season Ashes clashes. The home leg is on Sunday (September 6, 5.30pm).