Peterborough Phantoms chief Slava Koulikov saw his team come through a stormy showdown against English Premier League bad-boys Sheffield Steeldogs last night (February 8) – then insisted he would love to face them again in the play-offs.
The city team made it five wins in their last six matches – and 11 points from a possible 12 – with a 6-2 success in a Planet Ice clash littered with unsavoury incidents.
The two teams shared 177 penalty minutes (109 to the visitors; 68 to the hosts) with a total of four players being thrown out during the final period – three departing following the same incident.
Phantoms defenceman Greg Pick was responsible for 58 of them after picking up game and match penalties which will almost certainly carry a suspension for leaving the bench to join a melee after Steeldogs man Callum Pattison set upon Donatas Kumeliauskas.
Pick took it upon himself to protect his team-mate after the officials failed to step in. Pattison’s act was apparently retribution for Kumeliauskas catching another Steeldogs player, Ben Morgan, with a stick to the face as the visitors broke forward moments earlier.
Pick then traded blows with Ashley Calvert before settling that scrap with a right-hand that a heavyweight boxer would be proud to call his own.
Another Sheffield man, Lewis Bell, was also thrown out for spearing in the same flare-up while Cameron Brownley later joined them on a match penalty for roughing after jumping Will Weldon from behind.
Phantoms had the points in the bag by then, but it was only in the third period that they really shook off the Steeldogs.
Player-coach Koulikov said: “This sort of thing happens from time to time. I guess it entertains the fans at least.
“It looks like Greg will now miss a couple of games, but that is something we will have to deal with.
“Greg plays the role where he looks after his team-mates and I’m not going to be critical of him.
“I would love to face Sheffield in the play-offs because they are a team I think we can get past.
“They choose the way they play the game and we proved last night that we can get results against them if we stay professional.”
Phantoms were regularly thwarted by Steeldogs netminder Dalibor Sedlar in the opening session when the only breakthrough came from Koulikov as he fired in with a bit of help from the pipes.
Greg Wood levelled for the visitors early in the second period on a powerplay – a goal accompanied by a 10-minute incitement penalty for visiting player-coach Andre Payette after he celebrated in the face of Phantoms netminder Janis Auzins. Those two players exchanged verbals for the majority of the contest.
Captain James Ferrara restored Phantoms’ advantage with a powerplay blast though traffic and they still held a narrow advantage when the second period was halted early to allow for Luke Ferrara to be treated after he took an elbow to the head and fell heavily.
Ferrara was thankfully able to skate off unaided, but took no further part in a game that was still simmering at that stage.
Koulikov added: “I’m just happy that Luke is okay because the last thing I need right now is another injury.
“I was on the ice at the time, but turning away from the incident so can’t really comment on it.”
Kumeliauskas extended the lead upon the resumption only for Andrew Hirst to come up with a response, but a fourth Phantoms goal from former Steeldogs man Edgars Bebris on a powerplay seemed to break the visitors’ resistance (in terms of hockey at least).
A first EPL goal from Brad Moore – which came complete with an assist from fellow Islanders prospect Connor Stokes – stretched the cushion before the inevitable boiling point.
Once order had been restored Kumeliauskas rocketed in the final strike inside the final two minutes during a spell of four-on-three play which followed the triple ejection.
Phantoms still have one more home game against Sheffield in the regular season. That is on Saturday, March 14.
Next on the agenda is a derby date at Milton Keynes on Saturday (February 14) ahead of a visit from fellow second-place hopefuls Basingstoke the following night.
13:12 Koulikov ass: L. Ferrara/Kumeliauskas
28:30 J. Ferrara (PP) ass: Weldon/Levers
39:06 Kumeliauskas ass: Weldon/Koulikov
43:38 Bebris (PP) ass: Kumeliauskas/Levers
50:30 Moore ass: Bebris/Stokes
58:19 Kumeliauskas (PP) ass: Koulikov/Baranyk
21:46 Wood (PP) ass: Ozolins/Duncombe
42:25 Hirst ass: Haywood/Korhon
Phantoms – Edgars Bebris
Sheffield – Andrew Hirst