When the going got tough, Peterborough Phantoms got going last night (January 20).
The city side produced a stunning comeback to see off Streatham 5-2 and preserve their position at the NIHL Division One South summit.
Phantoms looked to be heading for a second successive defeat – after being on the receiving end of an 8-2 slaughter in Bracknell the previous evening - when conceding twice in the second period.
But they rallied superbly by slamming in four goals in less than eight minutes before a late powerplay clincher sealed two precious points.
It meant a successful end to a stressful day for head coach Slava Koulikov who brought forward his return from the World Under 20 Championships in Estonia to take his place on the bench.
“We needed the two points and the guys really showed up in the third period to make sure we got them,” said Koulikov.
“We had to respond to the loss on Saturday night and also to being two goals down to Streatham.
“We didn’t give up, we played for the full 60 minutes and we proved in the end that we are one of the best teams in the league.
“The guys played like a team in the third period and executed the things we have worked on for a long time. They are almost unstoppable when performing like that and the job for us is to ensure we do it for whole games rather than periods here and there.”
There was a blank opening stanza in which Phantoms man Jordan Marr was the busier of the two netminders, but he was beaten in the opening minute of the second period to a controversial goal from one of the club’s former players.
Streatham forward Tom Soar, who spent the 2013/14 season in Bretton, appeared to kick in the puck, but referee Will Hewitt was happy to allow the goal to stand.
And Phantoms’ woes increased with just over three-and-half-minutes of the session remaining when they were stung by a second Streatham goal.
Alex Roberts struck short-handed after a clearance from defenceman Michael Farn found its way into his path.
A quick response was essential and it arrived courtesy of Stepanek’s backhand strike with 45 seconds on the clock and he almost struck again in a scramble during Phantoms’ next attacking foray.
But they didn’t have to wait long to light the lamp again as Nathan Pollard levelled with a terrific finish in the second minute of the final period.
Player-coach Tom Norton thought he had completed the turnaround only to see a rocket-shot ruled out for an offside offence, but Stepanek soon ensured Phantoms hit the front by bagging his second goal of the evening.
Streatham couldn’t handle the immense frame and high quality of the Czech import who then turned provider with a marvellous cross-ice pass that gave Martins Susters a one-on-one opportunity which he calmly accepted.
Such was their sudden dominance, the real surprise was it took Phantoms more than seven minutes to strike again. But Susters made the most of a powerplay opportunity to complete an ultimately emphatic success.
The weekend ended with the top four teams in NIHL Division One South covered by just three points. Phantoms lead the way by a point from Swindon with Basingstoke a further point back in third and their Saturday conquerors, Bracknell, another point down in fourth.
Phantoms now face three crucial weekends in their pursuit of honours on two fronts.
They continue their NIHL Division One South campaign with a Saturday (January 26) trip to Swindon ahead of a home date against Basingstoke the following night.
Those fixtures are then reversed over the weekend of February 9 and 10 with Phantoms facing home and away dates against Bracknell in the NIHL South Cup semi-finals on February 2 and 3.