Phantoms fell to a sixth defeat in their last seven English Premier League games last night (January 16) – and the latest loss was arguably the most worrying.
The previous setbacks in recent weeks had all come against the two teams above them in the standings . . . two losses at the hands of table-toppers Basingstoke and a further three against second-placed arch-rivals Milton Keynes.
But being on the receiving end of an emphatic 5-1 loss against a Hull Pirates team, who sit second-bottom of the standings, will certainly have provided major cause for concern.
Much of the damage was done in the opening period as Sam Towner, Nathan Salem and Pasi Salonen all fired past Janis Auzins.
Phantoms did eat into their arrears within a minute of the second period starting courtesy of leading scorer Ales Padelek, but they couldn’t mount a comeback.
A second goal from Salem just after the mid-point of the game was followed by a fifth Hull strike from Lee Bonner.
Auzins was pulled in the wake of the final Pirates goal and replaced by Adam Long who managed a seven-shot shut-out in the remainder of the contest.
Despite the scoreline, Phantoms out-shot their hosts with Pirates goaltender Marty Raitums tested 40 times.
Tempers frayed in the closing stages with Hull man Tom Ralph having to be escorted from the ice following the final buzzer after picking up a stack of misconduct penalties.
Phantoms remain seven points behind leaders Basingstoke, who slipped to a surprise home defeat at the hands of Sheffield last night.
But they now trail MK by three points after Lightning edged out Guildford.
Phantoms also have three other teams breathing down their necks with sixth-placed reigning champions Telford only three points behind them in a congested section of the table.
Phantoms are back on home ice tonight (January 17) when they entertain crisis club Manchester Phoenix at Planet Ice (5.30pm).
5:40 Towner ass: Osman/Salem
9:20 Salem ass: Chilcott/Towner
15:34 Salonen ass: Bonner/Laine
31:40 Salem ass: Osman/Hutchinson
36:00 Bonner ass: Salonen
20:36 Padelek ass: Bebris
Phantoms – Ales Padelek