Peterborough Phantoms head coach Slava Koulikov urged his players not to be disappointed following a late twist in the biggest game of the NIHL Division One South season.
The city side collected a vital victory as they beat title rivals Basingstoke 3-2 at Planet Ice last night (March 4) to move two points clear at the summit heading into the final weekend of the season.
But they were stung by a late Bison strike which cut their arrears to one goal and denied Koulikov’s men an advantage in the title race. It means the two teams have identical head-to-head records with the title now highly likely to be settled on goal difference at the end of a 32-game season.
Phantoms have one fixture remaining (at home to Streatham on Saturday, March 10) while Basingstoke complete their campaign against the league’s bottom two teams - Invicta and Cardiff - next weekend.
Koulikov, whose side have now won seven successive games, said: “We battled hard, we showed our passion and desire, and we out-shot Basingstoke by a long way.
“Our performance ticked a lot of boxes and I had no doubt we would win the game, but there is always a chance of something not going our way and we saw that in the last few minutes.
“It is disappointing to concede late in any game, but at the same time we got the two points we needed. We did the job we had to do.
“The title race has looked like going all the way to the last game for a long time and that is almost certain that will happen now.
“We lost a little bit of a lifeline that would have made things more comfortable for us, but I can’t fault the guys for one sloppy breakdown in 60 minutes of hockey.
“The title is as much in our hands as Basingstoke’s. The next game for us is huge – the last two games for them are huge.
“Everyone could see the guys were disappointed to concede the second goal, but we played well to win a big game and now we must look forward, not back.”
And Koulikov was quick to pay tribute to the Peterborough public for turning out in force. A crowd estimated to be in the region of 1,000 provided super backing for his team – and he hopes they return for the Streatham clash.
Koulikov added: “It is a special feeling to play in front of a full building and the fans were brilliant. There were so many families and kids in, and so many people behind us.
“It was great to see such a big crowd and hopefully they will come back on Saturday. An atmosphere like that gives the guys a lift.”