Peterborough Phantoms made a winning start to the National Ice Hockey League (NIHL) Division One South campaign last night (September 19) – in what may well prove to be one of the toughest tests they face.
Slava Koulikov’s men triumphed 4-2 at Planet Ice thanks to a couple of quick scoring salvos against a dangerous set of Bracknell Bees opponents.
A man-of-the-match display from netminder Adam Long, and the fact Phantoms were out-shot by their fellow former English Premier League side, highlighted the difficulty of their opening assignment in the sport’s new second tier.
“All in all, I’m happy with the two points and a lot of what I saw from my guys in our first home game,” said Koulikov.
“We had decent first and third periods but didn’t read the game well enough at times in the second period when Bracknell went hard at us,
“There were over 40 shots on our net and Adam stood tall when he was called upon. The guys in front of him played well too against a Bracknell side who are definitely going to be tough to beat.
“There are still plenty of things to work on, because we have only had six practice sessions so far, but we’re moving in the right direction.”
Bracknell were the livelier side until Phantoms struck twice in 34 seconds in the opening period.
Local lad James White opened their account for the new campaign before import Darius Pliskauskas doubled the advantage.
Player-coach Scott Spearing halved Bracknell’s deficit inside the opening minute of the second session, and only some fine stops from Long – including two in quick succession from Callum Best - denied the Bees further goals.
Phantoms were second-best for much of that middle period, but they started the final stanza in considerably better style courtesy of two more goals in little more than a minute.
Will Weldon’s effort was allowed to stand despite lengthy protests from Bracknell, who felt he had pounced from inside the crease.
And the visitors were still regaining their composure when Pliskauskas helped himself to his second goal of the evening 63 seconds later.
Big defenceman Josh Tetlow hit back as Bracknell took advantage of a powerplay late on and another numerical advantage allowed them to camp in the Phantoms’ zone for the final two minutes with netminder Alex Mettam pulled, but the hosts stood strong to kick off the campaign in pleasing fashion.
Phantoms go to NIHL North Division One side Hull tonight (September 17, 5.30pm) to launch their National Cup challenge.
13.54 White ass: Billing/Long
14:28 Pliskauskas ass: Griffiths/Salem
41:35 Weldon ass: Jamieson/Knaggs
42:38 Pliskauskas ass: White/Norton
20:55 Spearing ass: Thompson
57:28 Tetlow (PP) ass: Bakrlik/Thompson
Phantoms - Adam Long
Bracknell - Shaun Thompson