Head coach Slava Koulikov admitted Peterborough Phantoms’ play-off quarter-final is far from over following the first leg last night (March 17).
The city team beat Milton Keynes Thunder 4-1 at Planet Ice despite being some way short of their best against physical opponents.
A fine first period – which featured a powerplay opener from Owen Griffiths, and further goals from Nathan Salem and captain James Ferrara – was followed by a mediocre middle session in which Ales Padelek made the only breakthrough.
But Phantoms saved their poorest showing until last when failing to fire in the final session. They lacked intensity and quality as they allowed far too much sloppiness to creep into their display.
That was highlighted when they coughed up possession of the puck in their own zone and Grant McPherson claimed a late reply for Thunder.
While it was only a deserved consolation on the night, it is a goal which could mean more in the overall reckoning if the Milton Keynes side are able to fight back tonight (March 18) in the Buckinghamshire return clash.
Koulikov said: “I know, the guys know and the fans who watched it know that was not our most dominant or clinical performance at home.
“Credit has to go to MK for the way they played a very professional away game in the play-offs.
“They took us off our game to be honest. We didn’t manage the puck well enough which made us look sloppy at times.
“But we won the game and that is what really matters even though we didn’t get the lead – five, six, seven goals – that we might have wanted.
“It is still anyone’s game, though. It only takes one moment or one bounce to change a play-off game.
“We can’t predict what will happen in the second leg. We know MK will go all out as they have nothing to lose and we have to ensure we get our performance right.”
The teams do battle again tonight in Milton Keynes (face-off 6.45pm). The winners of this tie will meet either Swindon or Streatham in the semi-finals - Swindon hold a 2-0 lead after the first leg of that clash.
All four quarter-final first legs were won by the higher-level team last night.
NIHL Division One South play-offs
Quarter-final, first legs: Basingstoke (1st) 6, Invicta (8th) 0; Phantoms (2nd), 4, Milton Keynes (7th) 1; Streatham (6th) 0, Swindon (3rd) 2; Bracknell (5th) 5, London (4th) 6.
3:30 Griffiths (PP) ass: Norton/Padelek
16:09 Salem ass: Griffiths
18:16 J. Ferrara ass: Robson/R. Ferrara
25:51 Padelek ass: Jamieson/Weldon
56:58 McPherson ass: O’Flaherty
Phantoms – James Ferrara
Milton Keynes – Rio Grinell Parke