A shock defeat at the hands of rock-bottom opponents might ordinarily be the cue for a public dressing down from a seething boss . . . but Peterborough Phantoms head coach Slava Koulikov adopted a very different stance last night (March 9)
He had no criticism for his players despite seeing them beaten 5-4 following penalties at NIHL Division One South basement boys Invicta after earlier clawing their way back from a 4-0 deficit to take the game in Gillingham into overtime.
Phantoms conceded twice in the opening seven minutes of an opening session in which they dominated but were unable to find any way past inspired Invicta netminder Connor Morris.
Their arrears increased further against the run of play during a middle stanza in which the contest was frequently halted to allow for repairs to the boards, while blood on the ice prompted another stoppage.
And Invicta then struck again early in the final period before Phantoms delivered a rousing fightback in which they wiped out a four-goal deficit in the space of seven minutes and seven seconds.
Ales Padelek pounced on a powerplay to launch a revival continued by Scott Robson before captain James Ferrara and Petr Stepanek struck 13 seconds apart.
Former Invicta man Martins Susters then had an effort ruled out in overtime before the home side prevailed on penalties.
Both sides then put away two of their opening three penalties with Stepanek and Padelek the men to oblige for Phantoms after Martins Susters’ opening attempt was saved.
Padelek then squandered a chance to earn the extra point when seeing his sudden-death effort saved after netminder Jordan Marr denied Invicta man Ondrej Zosiak.
Stepanek then kept Phantoms alive after Callum Best had netted for the hosts. Louis Colvin also put away the next Dynamos effort and that proved enough for victory as Padelek hit a post.
Koulikov said: “Our application was much better last night than for much of the midweek game against Bracknell.
“We were much more switched on, we moved the puck well, we created a lot of chances and it was tough to take coming in 2-0 down after the first period.
“I couldn’t really find too much fault with my team apart from perhaps the final execution, but the Invicta goalie stood on his head.
“It was simply a case of us conceding two goals in a first period we dominated and the second period was then very poorly managed due to the long stoppages.
“That meant we couldn’t really build any momentum and we ended up conceding another goal and found ourselves 3-0 down when we could easily have been 4-0 or 5-0 up.
“We made some changes ahead of the third period and were camped in the Invicta end before on breakdown led to another Invicta goal.
“We managed to get ourselves back level and then we dominated in overtime as well, but I can only think is that it was written in the stars for Invicta to win this game.”
Phantoms go into the final weekend of the regular season with an outside chance of snatching the title after table-toppers Swindon missed the chance to wrap it up last night.
The Wildcats fluffed their lines when falling to a 4-3 home defeat at the hands of sixth-placed Streatham, but they still boast a three-point lead with two games to go.
Phantoms’ final two league outings are a Saturday (March 16) trip to Raiders ahead of a Sunday (March 17) home clash against Streatham.
They currently need one more point to clinch second spot, although that will change if Basingstoke are beaten in Bracknell tonight (March 10).
1.43 Strawson ass: Dell
6.46 Dell ass: Foord/Leone
27.49 Stedman ass: English/Zosiak
44.18 Dell ass: Leone/Foord
46.45 Padelek (PP) ass: Billing/J. Ferrara
48.15 Robson ass: Stepanek/Susters
53.39 J. Ferrara ass: R. Ferrara
53.52 Stepanek ass Norton/Susters
INVICTA – Conor Morris
PHANTOMS – James Ferrara