Peterborough Phantoms head coach Slava Koulikov has called for a monumental effort from players and fans alike to save the club’s season tonight (March 25).
The city team must overcome a 4-2 deficit against Swindon in the second leg of their NIHL Division One South play-off semi-final at Planet Ice (5.30pm).
Phantoms’ first-leg defeat in Wiltshire last night (March 24) came at a cost as they lost livewire forward Owen Griffiths to a shoulder injury in the first period.
The Welsh talent left The Link Centre in a sling and has already been ruled out of the return clash – a further blow to a Phantoms squad already without Lithuanian import star Darius Pliskauskas due to injury.
“The way the game went last night, Swindon deserve to have a two-goal lead,” admitted Koulikov.
“We know they have a lot of offensive quality and size, and they used those things well. They were good value for money.
“But we have to start again tonight and hopefully we can feed off the energy of our home crowd.
“Scoring first is the ideal situation because it will be very tough if we happen to concede the opening goal.
“My guys never give up and they will bring that same mentality. We need the fans behind us in big numbers with lots of noise as none of us want the season to end.”
Jordan Kelsall fired Swindon into an early lead in last night’s first leg, but it was wiped out within a minute-and-a-half by an Ales Padelek leveller.
But Phantoms found themselves trailing again when Edgars Bebris – one of their play-off heroes of 2015 – beat netminder Euan King.
Max Birbraer and Sam Bullas struck unanswered goals in the middle session to put Swindon in command, but Phantoms rallied as Nathan Salem cut their arrears early in the final period.
Koulikov added: “At 4-1 down with more than half of the game still to go we were in a tough spot.
“We called a time-out and told the guys we couldn’t afford to concede again. Getting a goal of our own would be a bonus.
“We managed to do that to bring ourselves back into it. We were the better team in the second half of the game and that’s a big credit to the guys considering we had one important player missing and lost another one to injury.”
6:56 Kelsall ass: Birbraer/Bebris
12:31 Bebris ass: Hill/Liddiard
24:04 Birbraer ass: Nell/Hazeldine
27:53 Bullas ass: Nell/Birbraer
8:24 Padelek ass: Billing/Jamieson
43:02 Salem ass: J. Ferrara
Swindon – Max Birbraer
Phantoms – Nathan Salem