Peterborough Phantoms stepped up their challenge for silverware with the minimum of fuss last night (December 4).
Import ace Ales Padelek led the way with a hat-trick as the city club efficiently – and often excellently – brushed aside struggling Bracknell to register an 8-2 triumph at Planet Ice.
And the English Premier League success – a 21st in succession against the Bees - was doubly significant as it earned Slava Koulikov’s men a place in the latter stages of the EPL Cup.
The two points lifted Phantoms, who were runners-up in this competition last season, up to fourth spot in the standings and secured a semi-final showdown against troubled Telford in the new year.
Koulikov said: “We were maybe a little bit sloppy at times, but that can happen when only having one game in a weekend.
“We knew it might be flowing hockey from the first moment, but our performance got better as the night went on.
“We got a couple of goals in an opening period which was pretty scrappy at times and then killed the game off in the second. It was one-way traffic in the third and I’m very happy for the guys to make progress in the EPL Cup.
“It is one of three trophies we fight for during a season and making the semi-finals is an important step.
“We were eighth in the cup standings not so long ago, but I told the guys I still felt we have a good chance of making it into fourth place.
“There were a few strange looks from them, but they responded well to my challenge by picking up the results we needed.”
Padelek made the breakthrough on a powerplay before James Archer lashed in a second goal in the final minute of the opening period.
Padelek struck again early in the second session before a weak Darius Pliskauskas pass was punished as Bracknell bagged the first of two short-handed goals through Luka Basic.
Lithuanian international Pliskauskas made amends within 30 seconds by scoring at the other end before two goals in two minutes – from James Ferrara and Martins Susters - put the result beyond doubt.
Padelek completed his treble in the final session before David Gaborcik seized on an errant pass from Janis Auzins and slammed a second Bees strike past the Phantoms netminder.
Again it arrived while the visitors were at a numerical disadvantage and such sloppiness could be costly against better opposition, but it proved to be nothing more than minor irritation on a night completed by captain Ferrara’s second goal.
Only some fine saves from Bees netminder Alex Mettam (who played considerably better than his match stats might suggest) and some errant finishing then prevented Phantoms from reaching double-figures.
They now sit fifth in the league standings, but have a game in hand on fourth-placed Basingstoke. The Bison played twice at the weekend although one of those outings ended in a surprise overtime defeat at rock-bottom Manchester.
Phantoms have only one fixture again next weekend when they also entertain Bracknell (December 11, 5.30pm).
8:32 Padelek (PP) ass: Stepanek/Susters
19:22 Archer ass: Pliskauskas/Padelek
23:22 Padelek ass: Archer/Pliskauskas
28:03 Pliskauskas (PP) ass: Norton/Archer
37:19 J. Ferrara ass: Towner/Darge
38:57 Susters ass: Stepanek/Robson
43:28 Padelek ass: Archer/Norton
56:16 J. Ferrara unassisted
27:41 Basic (SH) ass: S. Thompson
53:42 Gaborcik (SH) unassisted
PHANTOMS – Ales Padelek
BRACKNELL – Luka Basic