Peterborough Phantoms head coach Slava Koulikov admitted a lack of firepower was costly following a second successive home defeat.
The city team were beaten 2-1 by Sheffield in an NIHL Autumn Cup clash at Planet Ice last night (September 29).
While Koulikov’s current charges lacked cutting edge in the offensive zone, one of their stars of last season played a major hand in
determining the outcome.
Nathan Salem hit an early opener before laying on a short-handed winner for Steeldogs team-mate Duncan Spiers in the final period.
That decisive effort came only minutes after Petr Stepanek had blasted Phantoms back onto level terms, but they were unable to respond a second time despite dominating possession of the puck and unleashing more than three times the number of shots of their visitors (36 to 11).
“We had the chances, we had the powerplays and we had more than enough opportunities to get the goals to win,” said a frustrated Koulikov.
“We couldn’t take advantage of them and the fact we also conceded a short-handed goal which ended up deciding the game made it a disappointing night.
“We lost four top-end forwards from last season so we knew it might take time for us to score goals.
“At the back end the aim is always to concede two goals or under, and we’re doing that. But, of course, we all know we need to put the puck in the net ourselves as well.
“Goals don’t always come from pretty play. Sometimes it is a case of having to go to the dirty areas and being gritty in front of the net.
“Our powerplay was on fire in the challenge games against Basingstoke and in this competition against Telford, but in the three games since we haven’t managed to get anything out of it.
“We’re working hard in practices and we’re always looking to find the right combinations to bring us the goals we need.”
Player-coach Tom Norton was denied by a fine save from Sheffield netminder Dimitri Zimozdra early on before Salem made a breakthrough.
Phantoms’ frustration in front of goal was summed up later in the opening period when an Ales Padelek shot got stuck between the legs of Zimozdra but was scrambled clear before crossing the line.
Moments of threat were at a premium in the second period as Phantoms went 40 minutes without a goal for the third home game in a row, but they finally clawed their way level when Stepanek struck following a face-off two-and-a-half minutes into the final session.
A fine Zimozdra stop denied the Czech import another goal moments later before Corey McEwen was also denied and captain James Ferrara fired another chance wide at the back post.
But with Phantoms building momentum they were stung as Sheffield won a face-off in their own zone, broke quickly through Salem and found the net thanks to Spiers.
Netminder Jordan Marr then denied Steeldogs forward Ash Calvert another short-handed goal while hopes of a big finish from Phantoms were dented when Will Weldon picked up a 2+10 penalty for boarding late on.
A final chance fell to McEwen as he raced into the zone in the dying seconds, but his shot could only find the considerable frame of Zimozdra as Phantoms fell to a first defeat in this competition but suffered a second successive Saturday slip-up on home ice after being controversially pipped in their league opener by Raiders the previous
Phantoms were without defenceman Robbie Ferrara last night after he became a father earlier in the day.
They travel to iceSheffield for a return clash tonight (September 30, 5pm).
42:26 Stepanek ass: Weldon
4:06 Salem ass: Smith/Calvert
48:55 Spiers (SH) ass: Salem
Phantoms - Petr Stepanek
Sheffield - Nathan Salem