Peterborough Phantoms coach Slava Koulikov insists he will be proud of his team . . . even if they fall short of the English Premier League play-off finals.
The city men kept their hopes of reaching the final four alive with a terrific 5-2 triumph against league champions Telford at Planet Ice last night (April 1).
The success moved them level on points with the Tigers in the race for second spot in Group A behind Guildford, the team Phantoms travel to face tonight (April 2, 6pm) in their closing fixture.
At the same time, Telford are away to bottom side Sheffield, who have yet to pick up a point from five games.
Telford also have the luxury of a better head-to-head record against Phantoms should the sides finish level.
They thumped Koulikov’s men 7-0 last weekend, but the city outfit were considerably better last night when signing off on a high in their final home fixture of a campaign in which they have frequently punched above their weight.
Koulikov said: “The guys knew we had to lay everything on the line to get the result.
“They looked back to their best for the first time since the cup final defeat, which hit us hard mentally.
“There is no doubt they deserved the two points against a great, title-winning Telford team.
“It was also important to entertain the fans in our final home game and hopefully we did that.
“We had to win last night, and now we have to win tonight. That’s all we can worry about.
“We will need things to go our way in Sheffield. Of course Telford should win there, but the pressure is on them to do that.
“Whatever happens tonight, I’m proud of what we have done this season.
“We have undoubtedly over-achieved to finish in the top four and to reach the cup final.”
Phantoms made the perfect start last night by hitting the front after just 69 seconds.
Ales Padelek squeezed the puck in from a seemingly impossible angle just as the net came off its moorings.
Telford protests fell on deaf ears as referee Roman Szucs ruled the goal should stand.
Brilliance from both netminders - Phantoms man Janis AuZins and visiting custodian Jon Boston - ensured there were no further changes to the scoreline in the opening session.
But no goaltender would have kept out Telford’s leveller little more than a minute-and-a-half into the middle session.
Doug Clarkson thundered in a powerplay blast so ferocious that it made a Petr Stepanek slap-shot look like a gentle tap.
But Phantoms regained the advantage later in the middle stanza when Edgars Bebris pounced from close range on a powerplay of their own.
A fine Auzins stop from Clarkson preserved the lead seconds later and it was extended early in the final period when Bebris caught Baston unawares from out wide.
Telford piled on the pressure and halved their arrears when Jason Silverthorn darted in to fire past Auzins, but that was as good as it got for the visitors as Phantoms finished with a flourish.
Stepanek thumped in a fourth goal before Robbie Ferrara slammed home half-a-minute later with Marc Levers completing a full house of five assists.
It was a rousing climax to a terrific performance from Phantoms. Whatever tonight brings, they certainly sent their fans home happy.
1:09 Padelek ass: Levers/Bebris
32:41 Bebris (PP) ass: Norton/Levers
41:16 Bebris ass: Padelek/Levers
58:31 Stepanek ass: Archer/Levers
59:01 R. Ferrara ass: Bebris/Levers
21:41 Clarkson (PP) ass: Weaver/Silverthorn
54:54 Silverthorn ass: Clarkson
PHANTOMS - Ales Padelek
TELFORD - Jason Silverthorn