Peterborough Phantoms defy the odds to win the National League play-offs in thrilling fashion

Peterborough Phantoms are the National League play-off champions. Photo SBD PhotographyPeterborough Phantoms are the National League play-off champions. Photo SBD Photography
Peterborough Phantoms are the National League play-off champions. Photo SBD Photography
Peterborough Phantoms defied the odds to win the National League play-offs for the first time in nine years.

The city side finished fifth in the regular season standings, but they upset most predictions in the play-off ‘Grand Final’ in Coventry by beating league champions Leeds Knights 2-1 on penalty shots after a 3-3 draw and a goalless five-minute period of overtime.

Top scorer Luke Ferrara converted the winning penalty to send the Phantoms camp into dreamland. Ferrara was in the squad the last time Phantoms won the play-offs in 2014-15 as was skipper Will Weldon who fittingly accepted the play-off trophy in his final game before retirement.

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Coach Slava Koulikov was also at the helm nine years ago and this impressive win over a star-studded Leeds side just added to a glittering CV.

Peterborough Phantoms are the National League play-off champions. Photo SBD PhotographyPeterborough Phantoms are the National League play-off champions. Photo SBD Photography
Peterborough Phantoms are the National League play-off champions. Photo SBD Photography

Phantoms had beaten Telford Tigers 5-4 in overtime in Saturday’s semi-final.

A report on the Grand Final for the Phantoms website from Ian Offers here…

An edgy opening period saw both netminders tested as both teams looked to take an early advantage. Keiran Brown and Mac Howlett tested Jordan Marr in the Phantoms net, whilst at the other end of the rink Ivan Bjorkly-Nordstrom and Lukas Sladkovsky both brought big saves out of Sam Gospel.

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Leeds opened the scoring on 13.38 when Matt Haywood's shot trickled under Jordan Marr and despite Tom Norton’s efforts, the puck crossed the line before he could clear.

Phantoms levelled the scoring three minutes into the middle period when Jarvis Hunt ripped the puck past Sam Gospel. On 26.47 it was advantage Phantoms when Luke Ferrara set Ivan Bjorkly-Nordstrom through on goal and after a small fake the Swede sent a rocket of a shot into the Leeds goal.

Leeds kept the pressure on the Phantoms goal and were rewarded on 37.30 when Dylan Hehir saw his shot fly past Marr. Two minutes later Bjorkly-Nordstrom picked up the puck and sent it to Lukas Sladkovsky on the breakaway and the Czech master gave Gospel no chance as he made it 3-2.

Knights once again tied the game on 42.39 when Noah McMullin's shot from distance found the top corner of the Phantoms goal. Both teams played out a cagey final period, with both looking for a goal, but not at the expense of leaving gaps for the opposition to exploit. On the buzzer it was off to overtime once again for the Phantoms.

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Phantoms started the extra minutes controlling the puck and recycling the lines, looking for the shooting opportunity. A goalmouth scramble in front of the Leeds net on 63.34 saw Austin Mitchell-King called for a harsh hooking penalty, leaving the Phantoms on a 4-on-3 penalty kill for the final 1min 26sec of the game.

Phantoms once again restricted the Knights’ shooting opportunities and with under 10 seconds on the clock they broke clear through Brad Bowering and Billy Thorpe. Bowering got the puck across to Thorpe who shot just wide on the buzzer.

Both teams missed their opening couple of penalties, before Matt Barron fired over Jordan Marr's catcher to give the Knights the advantage. Brad Bowering then coolly fired past Gospel with a highlight reel finish.

Into sudden death and Barron went again for the Knights, only to see his shot go wide of the Phantoms net. Luke Ferrara, having missed an earlier penalty shot, made no mistake second time around to seal a famous Phantoms’ victory.

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