New-look Peterborough Phantoms received a boost on the eve of the new English Premier League season by retaining the Ashes last night (September 4).
Slava Koulikov’s side saw off fierce rivals Milton Keynes 7-6 on aggregate after the traditional, two-legged pre-season battle went all the way to penalties.
While lifting the trophy was an undoubted positive, Phantoms’ performance on their own ice against a weakened set of opponents will have been something of a concern.
The city men were second-best for much of last night as they saw a 4-1 cushion from Saturday’s (September 3) opening clash in Buckinghamshire wiped out within 40 minutes, but they dug in to snatch the trophy in a sudden-death shoot-out.
Coach Koulikov said: “It is always good for the fans, and the morale of the guys, to win a piece of silverware.
“It looked like we might let our aggregate advantage slip away, but we managed to hang in there before winning the game on penalties.
“MK were dominant at times and they have a very good team even with a few players missing. It is their final season in the EPL before they step up to the Elite League and there is no doubt they have put together a squad to push for the title.
“But I’m pretty pleased with what I saw from my guys and the job now is to learn from the mistakes we’ve made in the last two weekends to make sure we start the league season as well as we can.
“These results will show them that they need to fight for 60 minutes or more, to pick up results.”
A Lightning side, again missing four players including their two new Polish imports, weren’t about to roll over last night after their reverse on home ice 24 hours earlier.
They ate into their deficit when Blaz Emersic blasted past Janis Auzins in the opening period and the overall score was deadlocked by the end of the second session following a flurry of five goals in little more than six minutes.
Sam Jones doubled the visitors advantage before Milan Baranyk marked his first return to Planet Ice with a slick powerplay strike.
Ales Padelek briefly hit back for Phantoms but another Peterborough old-boy, Lewis Hook, squeezed the puck in from a seemingly impossible angle 15 seconds before the buzzer to leave the sides tied at 5-5 on
Phantoms edged back ahead overall when big Petr Stepanek marked his home debut with a fine goal just under four minutes into the second period. The Czech capture’s giant frame is complemented by some silky skills, which he demonstrated when working his away across the attacking zone before firing past Lightning netminder Jordan Hedley with a reverse-stick effort.
But MK responded with a Frankie Bakrlik powerplay blast through traffic to restore aggregate parity and either side could find the net again. That was also the case in five minutes of overtime when Auzins pulled off three important stops to thwart Bakrlik.
And both teams also had trouble in lighting the lamp during the penalties that followed. Stepanek converted Phantoms’ second effort before Bobby Chamberlain replied when successful with Lightning’s third to take the shoot-out to sudden death where summer signing Sam Towner eventually provided the decisive strike.
Phantoms begin the new EPL season this weekend. They travel to Sheffield on Saturday (September 10) before entertaining Swindon the following night.
37:16 Padelek ass: J. Ferrara/Stepanek
43:58 Stepanek ass: Norton/Weldon
8:20 Emersic ass: Bakrlik
33:58 Jones ass: Scott/Baranyk
36:45 Baranyk (PP) ass: Jones/Bakrlik
39:45 Hook ass: Bakrlik
49:32 Bakrlik (PP) ass: Jones/Baranyk
Phantoms - Martins Susters
Milton Keynes - Craig Scott