Peterborough Phantoms snatched a vital success on a Saturday (February 10) night of drama in the NIHL Division One South title race.
The city team twice came from behind - thanks to levellers from Nathan Pollard in the second period and captain James Ferrara late on - before pipping Bracknell 3-2 following penalties at Planet Ice.
And Phantoms also have netminder Euan King to thank for the two precious points. He kept out two of the Bees’ shoot-out efforts to cap a terrific individual performance which featured a series of vital stops in overtime.
Imports Ales Padelek and Darius Pliskauskas both tucked away their penalties - either side of a Nathan Salem miss - as Phantoms claimed a victory which kept them level with title rivals Basingstoke, who claimed a notable win at third-placed Swindon last night.
Head coach Slava Koulikov admitted: “It was a really tough night, but we knew we had to come out of it with the two points. Bracknell played really hard and gritty hockey, and credit to them for making it so difficult for us.
“It wasn’t our best performance by any means, but even more credit goes to my guys for twice fighting back and getting the result in the end.
“Nathan did a great job in putting himself in the dirty areas and got his reward, while we all know James is a true captain and he came up with a big goal when we really needed it.
“Euan then really stood tall in overtime and saved two of the Bracknell penalties as well. We brought him in because he possesses plenty of experience which helps in situations like that.”
Phantoms were toothless in an opening session where they rarely troubled Bees netminder Alex Mettam. In fact, they would have found themselves trailing had it not been for a couple of smart saves from King.
They looked livelier in the early part of the middle session until being stung as the Bees broke the deadlock while enjoying a four-on-three powerplay as an Adam Barker drive appeared to take a deflection on its way past King.
Phantoms responded well as they injected some much-needed urgency into their play which led to plenty of threatening forays into the Bracknell zone. It also brought a reward when Pollard bundled in a rebound after a Pliskauskas shot was saved.
Only a fine King stop to deny George Norcliffe moments later kept them on level terms entering their most important period of the campaign so far and it could hardly have begun any more disappointingly as Shaun Thompson pounced to restore Bracknell’s lead only 38 seconds into the closing stanza.
But Phantoms, who couldn’t make any of their 10 powerplay situations count, battled on and clawed their way back onto level terms a second time when captain Ferrara thundered a powerplay blast through traffic with just under three-and-a-half minutes to go.
The skipper’s strike ensured regulation time ended in deadlock and the frequent heroics of netminder King meant the two teams were still level following five minutes of overtime in which the better chances fell to Bracknell.
And King again took centre stage during penalties, keeping out the efforts of Bees men Callum Best and Barker as Phantoms eventually
They are back in action today (February 11) when travelling to Streatham (6.45pm).
36:35 Pollard ass: Pliskauskas/Long
56:33 J. Ferrara (PP) ass: Griffiths/Salem
26:54 Barker (PP) ass: S. Thompson/Bendik
40:38 S. Thompson ass: Ingoldsby
Phantoms - James Ferrara
Bracknell - Shaun Thompson