Peterborough Phantoms suffered late frustration during a potential twist in the NIHL Division One South title race last night (December 29).
The city team were pipped 3-2 at silverware rivals Swindon in a crunch clash which was settled by a powerplay goal inside the final minute.
Wildcats man Chris Jones hit the decisive blow after Phantoms carelessly picked up a penalty for having too many men on the ice.
It proved to be a costly lapse as they were leapfrogged by Swindon who now lead the way by a single point, but they have played five more games than Slava Koulikov’s men.
The last-gasp goal was not the only source of irritation for Phantoms’ head coach in a game where his side had twice levelled before ultimately falling short.
They fell behind to another powerplay effort – from Sam Jones – in the opening period but soon responded through Glenn Billing.
That was the way it stayed until the closing minutes of the final session when Aaron Nell restored the Swindon advantage. The effort from the Wildcats player-coach was allowed to stand even though it hit the helmet of Phantoms netminder Jordan Marr.
The visitors didn’t let that controversy affect them as captain James Ferrara came up with another reply when they made a powerplay of their own count, but it was a final numerical advantage in favour of the hosts which ultimately settled the issue.
“It is always disappointing to see a game settled by a late goal,” said Koulikov. “I felt we deserved a point on the balance of play, but we have to accept the result.
“A couple of important moments – such as Swindon’s second goal – went against us but the fact we were able to come back from 1-0 and 2-1 down in the rink of a top team shows the character of our guys.
“The game went Swindon’s way in the end we are still in a good position and we move on.”
It was the fourth clash of the league campaign between Phantoms and Swindon with both teams having taken two victories so far. Swindon earned an extra point for taking Koulikov’s men into overtime in their last meeting in Bretton.
The trip to The Link Centre also completed the first half of the NIHL Division One South season for Phantoms. They begin the second half of it tonight (December 30, 5.30pm) when welcoming fourth-placed Basingstoke to Planet Ice.
Teenage defenceman Brad Bowering is a doubt after a hip problem forced him out of the action at Swindon following the first period.
13.47 S. Jones (PP) ass: Birbraer/C. Jones
53.10 Nell ass: Bullas
59.22 C. Jones ass: Bullas/Hoog
17.45 Billing ass: J. Ferrara/Robson
55.46 J. Ferrara (PP) ass: Padelek/Weldon
SWINDON – Neil Liddiard
PHANTOMS – Jordan Marr