Pizza delivery man Mario Uhrik boosted his chances of earning a crust with Peterborough Phantoms by impressing in the club’s first pre-season challenge fixture last night (August 27).
The 28 year-old played to a high standard in his native Slovakia before moving to the UK a few years ago. He has since been icing for the Peterborough Flyers recreational team before being given a chance to skate a claim with Phantoms this weekend.
Uhrik struck an equaliser and had a hand in another goal as Slava Koulikov’s men drew 3-3 with English Premier League rivals Sheffield Steeldogs at Planet Ice in the first of two challenge meetings in the space of 24 hours.
Koulikov said: “Mario’s name popped up in the summer and we thought we’d have a look at him with three forwards missing for this weekend.
“He is based locally and has shown a desire to get back to playing the game at a professional level.
“He worked very hard, got a goal and also had an assist, but it is too early to say what the future might hold at this stage.
“We have a big roster this year with 13 forwards when everyone is available, but we do have a free import spot if we choose to go down that route.”
Marc Levers had the honour of hitting the first Phantoms goals of the new term when striking on a powerplay at 7:47 to put them ahead.
He also collected the first penalty for a high-sticks offence early in the second session before Connor Stokes took a 2+10 sit-down for checking from behind.
And it was in the powerplay which followed Stokes’ offence that Sheffield levelled as Andrew Hirst steered a shot past Janis Auzins.
Only the frequent heroics of the Phantoms netminder, who make three expert saves to deny new Sheffield import Pavel Mrna, prevented the hosts from finding themselves adrift.
Auzins’ fine display was perhaps the most encouraging aspect of this opening night. He could be a seriously busy man if the social media experts are right about the weakness of the new-look Phantoms team.
He couldn’t prevent them falling behind last night when Adrian Palak danced round him and slotted into the empty net while Sheffield were short-handed at 45:43.
That sparked a flurry of goals with Phantoms getting back on level terms two minutes and one second later at 47:54 when Uhrik finished some slick powerplay passing between new recruits Connor Glossop and Sam Towner.
And within two minutes they were ahead as Towner rifled into the gaping target with Steeldogs netminder James Hadfield having fallen face-down onto the ice when making an initial save at 49:41.
But a blue-line blast through traffic from Thomas Relf at 56:26 restored parity although that outcome was certainly no disgrace to a Phantoms side without three senior forwards – new import Petr Stepanek, British capture James Archer and long-serving Will Weldon.
That trio are also missing for a return clash tonight at IceSheffield (5.30pm) and Koulikov added: “We’ve had a tough week with our pre-season camp and a lot of practice, so I’m pleased with how the guys performed.
“We’ve got another tough test at Sheffield on their big ice pad and I’m looking forward to seeing how we get on up there.”