Manchester United weren’t the only team to produce a thrilling comeback last night (March 6) - Peterborough Phantoms were at it too.
While the Red Devils were stunning Paris St Germain in the Champions League at the Parc des Princes, the city side came back from the dead to snatch a valuable success in a slightly-less-significant NIHL Division One South clash in the considerably-less-grand surroundings of Planet Ice.
Phantoms trailed Bracknell 4-1 with 10 minutes of regulation time remaining, but they clawed their way level before snatching victory in overtime.
Import ace Ales Padelek was the match-winner and headline-grabber as he completed a hat-trick of hat-tricks after also striking three times in weekend wins against Streatham and Invicta – although the latter scoring doesn’t strictly speaking exist due to that game subsequently being awarded as a walkover.
Last night’s result left Phantoms almost certain of finishing as runners-up for the second successive season and it could hardly have arrived in more dramatic fashion.
“It was an exciting game for the fans and a great fightback from the guys,” said head coach Slava Koulikov. “It’s a game that everyone at the rink last night will remember.
“Bracknell arrived short-benched but they battled hard, put guys behind the puck, made it difficult for us and capitalised on some mistakes to get into a good lead.
“But we showed again that we never give up and we deserved the two points in the end.”
Phantoms were the better side in a blank opening session and it was no surprise when big Petr Stepanek fired them ahead 78 seconds into the second period when tucking away a classy Corey McEwen pass.
But what happened next certainly was a shock as they surrendered their lead only 27 seconds later when conceding the first of four unanswered goals.
Aiden Doughty tipped in the leveller on a powerplay before Zack Milton completed the turnaround.
Another Doughty effort and a Tyler VanKleef goal then had the Bees sitting pretty and they still held that advantage as the clocked ticked into the final 10 minutes.
Stepanek struck again to cut Phantoms’ arrears before they were dramatically wiped out by two Padelek goals that arrived only 11 seconds apart.
And a man who celebrated his 39th birthday on Monday wasn’t done there as he was also on hand to force in the clincher in overtime.
“Both of my imports were amazing,” added Koulikov. “The top-end guys came up with something magic when we really needed it.
“They have both been a big part of a successful team this season and I can’t fault them at all.”
Phantoms have now closed to within four points of table-toppers Swindon, but the Wiltshire side need only one more victory to clinch the title.
They will be expected to collect that when hosting Streatham on Saturday (March 9) while Phantoms can seal second spot by triumphing at rock-bottom Invicta on the same night.
Phantoms then host Basingstoke on Wednesday (March 13) in the second leg of the NIHL South Cup final as they attempt to complete a silverware double.
The city men, who lifted the NIHL Autumn Cup before Christmas, lead 2-1 on aggregate.