An explosive top-of-the-table clash came complete with an epic finale as Peterborough Phantoms claimed the scalp of their biggest title rivals last night (December 9).
he city team triumphed 3-2 against Swindon in an overtime thriller at Planet Ice to extend their advantage at the NIHL Division One South summit to two points.
Glenn Billing was the man to provide sudden-death glory and settle a game that had it all . . . high quality, huge entertainment and some horrendous refereeing.
The joy was also coupled with a sense of relief that such a crucial contest was settled by a moment of class from one of the many fine players on show rather than being decided by official Deana Cuglietta.
She was happy to allow a stack of indiscretions – including some crude early hits from Swindon - to go unpunished but then felt the need to gift the Wildcats a five-on-three powerplay in the dying moments of the third period with two calls which could only be described as innocuous (a Tom Norton tripping offence) and unfathomable (Scott Robson penalised for delay of the game when he and the puck were trapped at the boards by a gaggle of Wildcats men).
The latter incident sparked outrage from the Phantoms coaching staff while import Ales Padelek earned himself a misconduct penalty which meant he took no further part in the fixture, but they channelled their frustration into a rousing defensive effort with brilliant backing from the stands helping them to the buzzer and a guaranteed share of the spoils with the sides deadlocked.
And one point became two in overtime with Robson fittingly having a hand in the game-winning goal as he fed Billing who finished brilliantly to earn his side a four-point weekend and four points against their biggest rivals across the last two weekends.
Earlier Phantoms were briefly behind in the first period as a penalty carelessly picked up for having too many men on the ice was punished by Toms Rutkis, but they responded quickly and with quality as a fine Padelek pass was finished superbly by captain James Ferrara.
Only a stunning Renny Marr save denied the skipper a second goal after Billing was denied by the crossbar, but a post and netminder Jordan Marr then rescued Phantoms as they started the second period sluggishly.
They soon hit their stride again and completed the turnaround as Ferrara finished on a powerplay while the pipes denied Petr Stepanek and Padelek further goals either side of a Swindon leveller as Adam Harding was left with time and space to finish following a turnover of possession.
Chances were at a premium in the final period when Ferrara was denied by a hat-trick by a super save in a delayed penalty situation. James White was also thwarted by Renny Marr on a couple of occasions before Swindon were unable to cash in on their controversial numerical advantage late on.
Phantoms forward Will Weldon saw the first big opportunity of overtime kept out, but there was no denying Billing as he expertly settled the contest and strengthened his side’s grip on top spot. They boast two games in hand on Swindon as well as a two-point cushion.
Phantoms are back in league action this Saturday (December 15) when going to Basingstoke ahead of a Sunday (December 16) home date against Milton Keynes Thunder.
But their immediate focus is now on lifting silverware with an NIHL Autumn Cup semi-final second leg against Sheffield at Planet Ice on Friday (December 14).
The sides are locked together at 2-2 after Phantoms produced a late comeback in the first leg at iceSheffield last Wednesday.
11.43 J. Ferrara ass: Padelek/Norton
28.02 J. Ferrara (PP) ass: Billing/Weldon
63.41 Billing ass: Robson
10.08 Rutkis (PP) ass: Birbraer
35.40 Harding ass: Rutkis
PHANTOMS - Glenn Billing
SWINDON - Toms Rutkis