Three high-class goals and one highly-controversial one allowed Peterborough Phantoms to claim a dramatic overtime success last night (March 14).
The city team were taken beyond the hour for the second successive home game, but a stunning sudden-death winner from Luke Ferrara ensured they shook off the Sheffield Steeldogs 4-3 to bank two more English Premier League points.
The local lad collected a pass from Donatas Kumeliauskas and thumped the fiercest of shots past visiting netminder Dalibor Sedlar from the tightest of angles.
And thankfully the next-goal-wins nature of overtime meant Phantoms couldn’t surrender that advantage as they had done on the three previous occasions they hit the front.
“We knew we were in for a tough game,” said player-coach Slava Koulikov. “Sheffield are not the sort of team who turn up just to roll over.
“We had a lot of possession of the puck and although we weren’t always as dangerous with it as I would have liked, we scored three very good individual goals.
“It goes down as another win and we are another step closer to the play-offs.”
Kumeliauskas had set the goalscoring wheels in motion after just 77 seconds after the puck was dropped with a high-speed surge into Steeldogs territory before unleashing a ripper of a shot across Sedlar.
That strike earned an early assist for debutant netminder Greg Blais who got the nod between the pipes with regular shot-stopper Janis Auzins having ‘not felt too good’ in practice the previous night according to Koulikov.
Blais was beaten for the first time by arguably the star individual on the ice – Steeldogs import Janis Ozolins – as parity was restored later in the opening session.
It remained that way until a quick exchange of goals late in the middle stanza. Marc Levers oozed class and composure to slot Phantoms back into the ascendancy on a delayed penalty but Andrew Hirst displayed similarly pinpoint finishing to fire past Blais on a powerplay moments later.
Then came the big talking point as Phantoms hit the front for a third time in the final period. A Darius Pliskauskas powerplay effort was allowed to stand even though it appeared to be directed in by the skate of the Lithuanian international.
Referee Tim Pickett is understood to have allowed it to stand as the final touch that took the puck into the net came off Steeldogs’ netminder Sedlar - much to the dismay of the visiting camp.
Needless to say it was quickly cancelled out as Lubomir Korhon buried the puck after fine work from Ozolins to take the game back into deadlock. Even a cracking fight between Phantoms man Mason Webster and Steeldogs’ scrapper Callum Pattison could be declared a draw on a night when there was so little between the teams.
They certainly deserved a point apiece for their night’s work, but it was Phantoms who prevailed thanks to Ferrara’s final flourish.
They climbed back into fourth position in the EPL standings thanks to last night’s success and are now almost certain to face Swindon in the opening round of the play-offs.
Three matches of the regular season remain before then – the first of which is at Planet Ice tonight (March 15) when second-placed Guildford Flames are the visitors (5.30pm).
Koulikov admitted ‘a few guys’ are struggling with injuries – defenceman Cameron McGiffin no doubt among them after departing with an arm in a sling last night - and he will take no risks with the play-offs now just a fortnight away.
1:17 Kumeliauskas ass: Blais
35:23 Levers (DP) ass: Webster/Pick
46:56 Pliskauskas (PP) ass: Bebris/Koulikov
62:19 L. Ferrara ass: Kumeliauskas
14:35 Ozolins ass: Bell/Morgan
38:29 Hirst (PP) ass: Korhon/Ozolins
49:48 Korhon ass: Ozolins
Phantoms – Will Weldon
Sheffield – Ben Morgan