Peterborough Phantoms triumphed in sudden-death drama to reach the English Premier League Cup final last night (January 22).
Goal-tending ‘Goliath’ Janis Auzins and Aussie ace Wehebe Darge were the heroes as the city men prevailed on penalties against table-topping Telford to secure a place in the showpiece for the second successive season.
Darge was the only player from either side to light the lamp in the shoot-out while Auzins saved four of Telford’s five attempts with the other one missing the target.Bizarrely, it meant Phantoms were left celebrating just minutes after suffering their heaviest defeat of the season!
They were beaten 7-2 in regulation time by Telford in the second leg of this semi-final showdown and, in previous years, that result would have sent them crashing out after only winning 4-2 in the reverse fixture last Wednesday (January 18).
But the new system now employed in the latter stages of this competition determined that both club’s wins were worth two points with Phantoms assured of reaching overtime, at the very least, last night.
And while an additional five minutes of three-on-three hockey didn’t produce a winner, Phantoms eventually prevailed in the shoot-out to set up a mouth-watering showpiece showdown against fierce rivals Milton Keynes.
It also gives them the chance to atone for defeat at the hands of Guildford last season when a 9-1 drubbing in the opening leg ended their hopes of lifting the trophy – and also sparked the change of rules.
Phantoms were put to the sword in an opening period bossed by Telford last night.
Adam Taylor needed just 59 seconds to fire the hosts ahead and Milan Kolena soon doubled their advantage.
A powerplay goal for Doug Clarkson gave the Tigers further breathing space although Phantoms did briefly hit back through Martins Susters early in the second period.
But they were twice punished by Telford captain Jason Silverthorn when killing penalties as the hosts increased their advantage to 5-1 on the night.
Another powerplay effort, from Lubormir Korhon, followed in the final session before Silverthorn completed his hat-trick. In actual fact he didn’t find the net himself, but was the last Telford player to touch the puck before Phantoms defenceman Tom Stubley whizzed a mis-placed pass into his own net.
Darius Pliskauskas fired in a late consolation for Phantoms with 68 seconds of regulation time to go, but it had long since been clear the tie would go beyond the hour.
Telford showed their intentions by replacing import netminder Jonny Baston for Brit shot-stopper Sam Gospel during that third period. Clubs are only permitted to have one import on the ice during overtime.
Phantoms followed the lead of their hosts by pulling Auzins for Adam Long, but it was always going to be the big Latvian back in the crease for the additional five minutes of breathless hockey.
There was only one clear chance for either side, though with James Archer unable to beat Gospel for Phantoms and Matty Davies steering Telford’s big opportunity wide.
And the puck continued to stay out of the net in the shoot-out as the first six men to step up all failed to find the target.
Padelek, Pliskauskas and Stepanek saw their efforts saved by Gospel while Auzins denied Kolena and Doug Clarkson either side of Davies missing the target.
The same theme continued as the shoot-out to sudden death with Phantoms man Archer and Telford’s Silverthorn both failing to light the lamp.
But Phantoms eventually came up trumps as Darge made no mistake before Auzins kept out Korhon to secure a final spot for the second successive season.
Phantoms won’t have to wait until the EPL Cup final to face big rivals Milton Keynes – they travel to Buckinghamshire for a league clash this Saturday (January 28, 7pm).
They then host Basingstoke the following night (January 29, 5.30pm) in a weekend which features games against the teams directly above and below them in the standings.
0:59 Taylor ass: Korhon/Tait
6:05 Kolena ass: Jones
14:01 Clarkson (PP) ass: McEwen
31:51 Silverthorn (PP) ass: Clarkson/Zajac
35:21 Silverthorn (PP) ass: Kolena
46:00 Korhon (PP) ass: Weaver/Kolena
47:23 Silverthorn unassisted
23:43 Susters ass: Padelek
58:52 Pliskauskas ass: Bebris/Stubley
TELFORD – Jason Silverthorn
PHANTOMS – Wehebe Darge