What a night. What a season. What a team.
Peterborough Phantoms became double-winners when lifting the NIHL South Cup in another famous Planet Ice occasion.
The city men pipped final opponents Basingstoke 6-5 on aggregate following a titanic second leg last night (March 13) in which the sides shared eight goals, but a 2-1 win in the first leg in Hampshire gave Slava Koulikov’s stars the edge overall.
And this tale of sporting success came complete with a fairytale finish as local man, captain and club legend James Ferrara tucked away the decisive goal to complete a third-period turnaround and ensure he would be lifting silverware in front of his own fans for the second time this season.
The club’s December triumph in the NIHL Autumn Cup was good. This was even better as a high-class and hard-hitting Bison side pushed Koulikov’s men to the absolute limit.
It was the third trophy in the reign of their astute coach and one which carried the club into double-figures in their 17-year history.
It arrived a decade on from their famous treble at English Premier League level and Phantoms could now match or even better that feat.
The city men still have an outside chance of title glory going into the final weekend of the NIHL Division One South campaign with much more likely opportunities for further silverware ahead in the play-offs.
They’ll be a tough nut to crack on this evidence. Phantoms didn’t just display high quality, they also boasted immense character to recover from being 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2 down on the night.
The opening period was certainly fast and furious, but the frantic pace actually led to very few clear chances.
Corey McEwen and Glenn Billing were among the Phantoms players to test Bison netminder Alex Mettam while home goaltender Jordan Marr made smart stops to deny George Norcliffe and player-coach Ashley Tait.
The level of intensity didn’t drop in the middle session but the action went up more than a few notches as the sides provided five goals between them.
Norcliffe pounced to put Bison ahead on the night and within two minutes they also held the lead on aggregate courtesy of Hallam Wilson. Both goals arrived in similar fashion as passes into the zone bounced back off the boards and were put away.
A rapid response from Phantoms was vital and Padelek ensured it happened as he burst round the back of the Bison net and steered the puck in off the skate of a defenceman.
Basingstoke then made a powerplay count as import Michal Klejna was left unattended to rifle a rising shot past Marr, but again Phantoms hit back in the final minute of a breathless and brilliant period.
And it really was a ‘home’ goal as Peterborough men Robbie Ferrara and James White were the creators for fellow local lad Nathan Pollard - one of the unsung heroes of this excellent season - to tap in at the back door.
It was a wonderfully-executed and perfectly-timed reply to pull Phantoms back to within one goal on the night and level on aggregate,
but it didn’t stay that way for long. Only 96 seconds into the final period and Basingstoke were celebrating again.
A breakdown led to a quick breakaway and Norcliffe had no trouble in firing past Marr, but Bison then lost their discipline and lost their lead as Phantoms settled a terrific spectacle with two powerplay strikes in quick succession.
The outstanding Padelek hammered in the first of them to bring the sides level on aggregate before turning provider with an exquisite pass that put the crucial goal on a plate for his captain, James Ferrara.
Phantoms then saw out the remaining 10-and-a-half minutes - which felt like a lifetime - with relatively few alarms as their army of fans raucously cheered them to glory.
And they only got louder following the final buzzer as the celebrations lasted long into the night.
There are certainly worse ways to spend a Wednesday evening . . .
32.26 Padelek ass: J. Ferrara/Billing
39.24 Pollard ass: White/R. Ferrara
46.53 Padelek (PP) ass: J. Ferrara
49.38 J. Ferrara (PP) ass: Padelek
28.12 Norcliffe ass: Jones/Klejna
29.53 Wilson ass: Klejna
36.42 Klejna (PP) ass: Jones/Tait
41.36 Norcliffe ass: Klejna/Wilson
PHANTOMS - James Ferrara
BASINGSTOKE - George Norcliffe