Peterborough Phantoms got there in the end last night (March 8).
This was a game won in the manner in which the decisive strike was scored as Donatas Kumeliauskas’ penalty just about trickled into the net to ensure Phantoms edged to a 3-2 victory over Manchester following penalties.
It meant glory against the outgoing champions for the second successive Sunday but, unlike their success at the Altrincham Ice Dome the previous weekend, this Planet Ice contest went the full distance.
The two teams cancelled each other out after an early flurry of goals to earn a point apiece and another breakthrough still appeared unlikely in the shoot-out.
Formidable Phantoms netminder Janis Auzins kept out the efforts of Phoenix men James Archer, Robin Kovar and Frantisek Bakrlik while visiting netminder Declan Ryan had no trouble in denying Phantoms’ first two penalty-takers, Milan Baranyk and Darius Pliskauskas.
But Ryan couldn’t repeat the feat as Kumeliauskas’ effort squirmed through his pads and dribbled tortoise-like into the net to secure a second league point for the hosts.
“We battled hard to win the game even though it took a little bit longer than we all wanted,” admitted player-coach Slava Koulikov.
“We should probably have scored more goals than we did, but their netminder played well.
“To get two points from a weekend made up of games against the new champions Telford and the previous champions Manchester is a great achievement for our small team.
“We’re working hard in readiness for the play-offs and everyone in the locker room is looking forward to final few games of the regular season to continue that.”
Phantoms fell behind, levelled, hit the front and were then pegged back as all the goalscoring incident last night arrived in the opening period.
Jared Dickinson fired the opening blow for the visitors but their lead lasted just 15 seconds as Luke Ferrara pounced.
Pliskauskas then rifled Phantoms ahead before Kovar poked in to restore parity which remained until Kumeliauskas’ penalty trickled across the line.
The second period was relatively low-key in comparison with the best opportunities arriving within seconds of each other.
Former Phantoms man Archer was denied by Auzins after breaking short-handed before captain James Ferrara, who played in defence last night, should have buried the puck in the next attack but allowed Ryan to save after a fine Pliskauskas pass.
Phantoms looked the likeliest winners during the final session with Pliskauskas twice being thwarted early on before a rare lack of quality from the Lithuanian meant he failed to pick out his boss Koulikov in front of the net.
And once again the hosts were unable to put the puck away in sudden-death overtime with Luke Ferrara and Kumeliauskas forcing smart saves from Ryan.
But the Phoenix netminder was eventually beaten as Phantoms continued their domination of the six-game series with a fifth win to climb back into fourth in the EPL standings.
Phantoms face back-to-back home games in the coming weekend. They entertain Sheffield on Saturday (7pm) before hosting Guildford on Sunday (5.30pm).
2:17 L. Ferrara ass: Baranyk
6:07 Pliskauskas ass: Koulikov/Bebris
2:02 Dickinson ass: Thompson/Neil
16:32 Kovar ass: Bakrlik/Burlin
Phantoms – Will Weldon
Manchester – Declan Ryan