Peterborough Phantoms head coach Slava Koulikov admits he is pleasantly surprised at how National Ice Hockey League (NIHL) Division One South is shaping up.
The city men recorded a second successive home victory when beating Streatham 5-2 at Planet Ice last night (September 23) and Koulikov had positive comments for both sides.
Phantoms had to wait until the final minute of the opening period to break down a disciplined set of opponents, but they went on to take command on a night in which they unleashed 47 shots on visiting netminder Matt Colclough.
“We know the quality is not the same as the English Premier League due to fewer imports,” said Koulikov. “But I’m pretty pleased with how things are shaping up in the NIHL. The hockey is very competitive and that’s just what myself and the players want.
“Streatham were very organised and made it really difficult for us in the first period. They came with a plan and did not just skate around for the sake of it.
“It was important to get ahead when we did and then we really found our rhythm as the second period went on. But for an impressive goalie, we could have had more goals.
“We almost out-shot them two-to-one in the end and hopefully people can see we are trying to create an offensive and exciting style of hockey.
“And it is great to be able to give regular ice-time to the young guys while doing that.”
The breakthrough finally came with 17 seconds of the first period to go. Darius Pliskauskas was the man to beat Colclough on a powerplay.
The opener arrived moments after captain James Ferrara pinged a shot against a post during the same numerical advantage.
Ferrara should have doubled the lead in the first minute of the middle session when denied by Colclough in a one-on-one situation, but Phantoms didn’t have long to wait for a second goal as two of their summer recruits combined. Glenn Billing provided the final touch to a shot from Edward Knaggs.
But Streatham quickly responded to cut their arrears when a Brandon Miles shot trickled under the body of Phantoms netminder Adam Long.
Only some errant finishing (Daniel Rose put a glorious chance over not only the bar, but also clear of the plexi-glass) and a terrific Long save (to deny Ryan Watt on a breakaway) prevented the visitors from levelling.
Billing was again involved as Phantoms stretched their lead with his initial shot saved before James White swotted away the rebound. Defenceman Robbie Ferrara then got in on the act with a shot through traffic before smart saves from Colclough denied Norton and Pliskauskas further goals.
Phantoms were in control nonetheless and that didn’t change during a final period in which the teams traded goals within a minute of each other.
Nathan Salem’s rocket shot was followed by a consolation from visiting captain Adam Carr.
Phantoms hit the road tonight (September 24) for the first chapter in a new rivalry against Milton Keynes.
With old foes Lightning having stepped up to the Elite League, Koulikov’s men now do battle against the Buckinghamshire town’s Thunder side (6.30pm).
Koulikov added: “I know a few of the names on the Thunder roster, but don’t know an awful lot about them.
“It looks like they have been having some decent results and we certainly can’t afford to be complacent.”
19:43 Pliskauskas (PP) ass: Salem/Jamieson
22:38 Billing ass: Knaggs/J. Ferrara
30:31 White ass: Billing
34:19 R. Ferrara ass: Griffiths
48:21 Salem ass: Robson
23:46 Miles ass: Webb/Farn
48:59 Carr ass: Watt
Phantoms - James White
Streatham - Alex Sampford