Peterborough Phantoms were beaten in a clash of the English Premier League champions last night (October 18).
The play-off winning city side went down to title-holders Telford at Planet Ice as they were involved in a 10-goal game for the second successive evening.
But, unlike in Sheffield 24 hours earlier, this time they found themselves on the wrong end of a 6-4 scoreline in an action-packed clash laced with refereeing controversy.
“We are always disappointed to lose on our own ice,” said coach Slava Koulikov. “And that’s even more the case when we were leading going into the final period.
“A loss of concentration cost us as we conceded a penalty on an icing call and then Telford scored on the powerplay that followed to get themselves level. That was a big moment in the game.
“We had a two-minute spell of five-on-three, but couldn’t get back level and then Telford went on to score a couple more goals.
“We all know Telford are going through a rough spell, but they are champions for a reason and showed they have quality.
“We conceded more goals than we have done in any previous weekend. That is something we will need to review and correct.
“But we still picked up two points in the weekend and that is what we always set out to do.”
The teams shared six goals in an opening period when netminding and defensive work were virtually non-existent at both ends of the ice.
Telford hit the front when Phil Hill benefitted from some slick work round the back of the net from Peter Szabo.
They doubled their lead when Szabo touched in an effort Phantoms netminder Janis Auzins appeared to think he had saved only to see the puck trickle under his pads and into the net.
Phantoms produced a rip-roaring response to level courtesy of two goals in the space of 56 seconds. Lloyd Gibson was the first to punish shaky Tigers netminder Sam Gospel before captain James Ferrara pounced on some smart Ales Padelek play.
Parity lasted less than two minutes as the Tigers hit the front again with a powerplay strike from Phantoms old-boy Joe Miller, but the hosts again had an answer again as Darius Pliskauskas carved out a leveller for Marc Levers.
The goal judges weren’t troubled again until Phantoms hit the front for the first time in the final minute of the middle session. Padelek bounced the puck in off the back of Gospel from a tight angle after Craig Scott had been denied, but the city men couldn’t build on their advantage.
They were pegged back in contentious fashion by Max Birbraer’s powerplay hit through traffic just under two minutes into the final period.
Phantoms were already smarting after being called for an icing infringement and salt was rubbed into the wounds when the goal was allowed to stand even though the net appeared to be off its moorings.
Their mood will no doubt have worsened when conceding a short-handed fifth goal soon after. Scott succeeded only in picking out Birbraer with a poorly-placed pass and the Tigers import punished him by releasing veteran Rick Plant to strike.
Szabo stylishly delivered the final blow when converting a Birbraer rebound with just under seven-and-a-half minutes to go and referee Paul Brooks hampered any hopes of a Phantoms fightback.
He harshly handed out a two-plus-10 penalty for an alleged check from behind which ended Scott’s night early and Ferrara played no part in the final four minutes after earning a misconduct penalty for contesting a poor boarding call on Will Weldon.
Auzins had also taken a 10-minute misconduct penalty in the aftermath of the hotly-disputed fourth Telford goal while Edgars Bebris had been called for a 2+10 check from behind in the middle period as the city men racked up 52 minutes worth of penalties.
And, to make matters worse, Phantoms also lost Milan Baranyk with just over three minutes to go after he was struck on the knee by a shot at point-blank range.
Koulikov added: “The referee took control of the game and that is something I hate.
“I think a referee needs to feel and understand such a close game rather than make decisions for the sake of it.
“We took four 10-minute penalties and we are not a team with poor discipline or one which loses its rag.”
Despite their defeat, Phantoms stay second in the EPL standings. They trail leaders Milton Keynes by two points, but boast two games in hand.
Koulikov’s men are back on home ice on Saturday night (October 24) when they entertain Manchester Phoenix (7pm). A first visit to league newcomers Hull Pirates follows on October 25, 5.30pm.
9:27 Gibson ass: Levers/Pliskauskas
10:31 J. Ferrara ass: Padelek/Baranyk
15:16 Levers ass: Pliskauskas
39:22 Padelek ass: Scott/Pliskauskas
2:35 Hill ass: Szabo/Heywood
8:40 Szabo ass: Scott
12:26 Miller (PP) ass: Plant
41:58 Birbraer (PP) ass: Hill/Szabo
45:27 Plant (SH) ass: Birbraer
52:37 Szabo ass: Birbraer/Scott
Phantoms – Lloyd Gibson
Telford – Sam Zajac