Head coach Slava Koulikov saw his Peterborough Phantoms team provide the treats . . . after accusing NIHL South Cup semi-final rivals Bracknell of playing ‘tricks’.
The city team stepped up their bid for more silverware by powering to a 6-3 success against the Bees last night (February 3) in an NIHL South Cup semi-final showdown.
And, after witnessing his side take command of the tie, Koulikov had some choice words for their rivals – particularly coach Doug Sheppard - following the controversial postponement of what should have been the first leg the previous night.
Bracknell called off that Saturday (February 2) contest on safety grounds following heavy snow in the Berkshire area, but a public skating session then took place at their Hive base.
“There are a lot of question marks about why Saturday was called off,” said Koulikov. “The temperature was plus five and the roads were clear, yet the game was postponed and it’s a tough one to take.
“I understand that a club might be worried about the safety of their fans, but they had a public session instead. Surely if a game is cancelled the rink should be shut.
“Last year it was the same coach at Basingstoke and the same story with a game postponed after a little bit of snow and it ended up costing us the title.
“We offered to help on Saturday to get the game on, but the answer was ‘no’. It’s not right and I think the league should start to click on.
“We could be in a final now, but because of things out of control and potentially tricks being played there is still a long way to go.”
The teams eventually did battle last night in Bretton when Phantoms recovered from the early blow of conceding a sixth short-handed goal in four games.
Josh Smith was the Bracknell beneficiary as the visitors hit the front, but Phantoms levelled through an effort impressively crafted by Martins Susters and coolly finished by Corey McEwen.
The city men then enjoyed a goal at the right end during a powerplay as Petr Stepanek put away a James White pass to complete the turnaround in the second period.
The Czech ace struck again little more than five minutes later when burying another super Susters’ assist at the back door, but Bracknell responded within a minute as an Ivan Antonov effort looped past an unsighted Phantoms netminder Jordan Marr to leave the game in the balance going into the final session.
But, once there, Phantoms took control with two goals in 60 seconds as a Nathan Pollard shot crept through traffic before Glenn Billing converted an Ales Padelek pass on a powerplay.
Veteran import Padelek then got in on the act himself before Bracknell cut their arrears late on through Aidan Doughty, but it is Phantoms in the ascendancy ahead of a second leg which is still to be arranged.
“It was a good 60-minute performance and a three-goal lead is the minimum we deserve on the balance of the game,” added Koulikov.
“Only time will tell if that is enough, but we will go into the second leg at 0-0 and see where we’re at after 60 minutes.”
The winners will meet Basingstoke in the final after the Bison pipped Swindon 9-8 as the other semi was completed at the weekend.
Phantoms now do battle with both of those teams next weekend as they return to the NIHL Division One South title chase.
A trip to Basingstoke on Saturday (February 9, 6.30pm) is followed by a Sunday (February 10, 5.30pm) home showdown against Swindon.
Phantoms are three points behind table-topping Swindon and two points adrift of second-placed Basingstoke after losing to both sides on successive nights last month, but they do boast games in hand.
14.53 McEwen ass: Susters
27.21 Stepanek (PP) ass: White/Susters
32.35 Stepanek ass: Susters/Buglass
46.31 Pollard ass: Weldon/White
47.31 Billing (PP) ass: Padelek/Norton
56.19 Padelek ass: J. Ferrara
5.13 Smith (SH) unassisted
33.13 Antonov unassisted
58.37 Doughty ass: Watt/Malinik
PHANTOMS - Nathan Pollard
BRACKNELL - Ed Knaggs