The new year certainly began with a bang for Peterborough Phantoms.
The city side brought in 2017 by delivering a double-figure destruction of Sheffield at Planet Ice last night (January 1) in the first part of an English Premier League double-header against the Steeldogs.
Phantoms triumphed 10-2 as the recipe of a red-hot home side and a seriously depleted set of visitors made for the sort of one-sided sporting spectacle only usually seen when Anthony Joshua steps into the ring.
“We lost our final home match of 2016,” said Phantoms coach Slava Koulikov. “And we definitely did not want to lose our first one of 2017.
“The boys obviously didn’t overdo it partying on New Year’s Eve and it was pleasing to see them put in a performance like that.
“We had a gameplan and executed it very well for the vast majority of the game. We stepped away from it a couple of times and had a little bit of trouble, but overall it was a good start to the year.”
There was an unsurprising shortage of players for Sheffield (the worst disciplined team at EPL level have three men, including two imports, banned) but a far more surprising lack of fight from those that did ice. This was a meek surrender from a team who normally make life uncomfortable for the full 60 minutes.
They did provide a couple of early scares when managing to have the two most dangerous efforts during four minutes of powerplay for Phantoms, which included a wasted spell of five-on-three.
But Janis Auzins made smart saves to deny Arnoldas Bosas and Tomas Brcko in those short-handed Sheffield raids before Phantoms soon found themselves in cruise control thanks to a pair of well-worked goals.
Petr Stepanek delivered the classy approach play to give Ales Padelek a simple finish before Owen Griffiths was left with an equally simple task of firing into the twine after Marc Levers and Sam Towner linked smartly.
Stepanek was the architect again as Martins Susters added a third goal just 19 seconds into a middle session that was akin to a massacre.
The teenage ace then left his mark with a big hit that dislodged a section of plexi-glass and also put Steeldogs defenceman Tim Smith out of the game.
Susters was on target again with a ferociously-hit fourth goal for Phantoms before Darius Pliskauskas marked his earlier-than-expected return from injury with a fine solo effort which stemmed from a face-off at the other end of the ice.
Sheffield ended Auzins’ hopes of a second successive shut-out when Macauley Heywood tapped in the first of his two consolation goals, but an outrageous piece of Padelek skill – followed by a smart finish – ensured normal service was soon resumed.
There was also time for Wehebe Darge touch in a Pliskauskas pass before the buzzer and the goals continued to flow in the final session.
Pliskauskas and Stepanek provided a quick double salvo of powerplay strikes past back-up Steeldogs goalie Brandon Stones before Heywood grabbed another back for the visitors by beating Phantoms’ replacement netminder Adam Long.
But the city men were determined to reach double-figures as they continued to pour forward and James Archer ensured they succeeded with two-and-a-half minutes to go.
Now third-placed Phantoms turn their attention to following up with another success in the return clash at iceSheffield tonight January 2, 7.30pm) - and Koulikov is expecting the Steeldogs to be a much tougher proposition on their own ice.
“Greg (Sheffield coach, Wood) will not be happy with the amount of goals his team conceded in our building,” added Koulikov.
“Sheffield will definitely be keen to bounce back and we have to be aware of that, but we will employ the tactics we believe can get a result up there.”
7:39 Padelek ass: Stepanek/White
15:09 Griffiths ass: Towner/Levers
20:19 Susters ass: Stepanek/Padelek
28:04 Susters ass: Padelek/J. Ferrara
29:00 Pliskauskas ass: R. Ferrara/Darge
37:54 Padelek unassisted
39:27 Darge ass: Pliskauskas/Archer
48:46 Pliskauskas (PP) ass: Darge/J. Ferrara
49:49 Stepanek (PP) ass: Susters/Padelek
57:31 Archer ass: Robson/Levers
35:09 Heywood ass: Bosas/Calvert
52:45 Heywood ass: Bosas/Calvert
PHANTOMS – Sam Towner
SHEFFIELD – Macauley Heywood