The NIHL Division One South title hopes of Peterborough Phantoms were all but extinguished last night (February 23).
A depleted city side – missing imports Ales Padelek and Petr Stepanek, and another star forward Corey McEwen, due to injury concerns ahead of their NIHL South Cup final first leg this Thursday (February 28) – suffered a shock slip up on home ice.
Phantoms, who also rested first-choice netminder Jordan Marr, were beaten 3-2 by second-bottom Milton Keynes Thunder at Planet Ice in a game settled by penalties.
Visiting netminder Jordan Lawday proved to be the match-winner as he frequently frustrated Phantoms before saving all three of their attempts in the shoot-out.
And while the point they did gain was enough to lift Slava Koulikov’s men back into second place in the standings, they are now eight points adrift of champions elect Swindon.
“We obviously didn’t want to lose the game and we had more than enough opportunities to win it,” said Koulikov.
“But we couldn’t put the puck in the net and we also conceded a horrible short-handed goal. Those are the reasons why we dropped a point.
“The Thunder goaltender kept them in the game and then stood tall for them by saving all three of our penalties.
“We have picked up injuries here and there, and we have to make sure everyone has the best chance of playing on Thursday.
“The positive is that the young kids did really well. Jarvis (Hunt), Taylor (Romeo) and Jack (Escott) all had far more minutes than they are used to and it was a great experience for them.”
Phantoms fell behind inside the opening minute as Thunder import Tomas Rubes beat back-up netminder Ryan Bainborough, but they quickly levelled through Glenn Billing.
They were also in arrears for a short time in the second period after gifting Rubes a short-handed goal, but Martins Susters levelled on a powerplay.
Susters then missed a glorious chance to put Phantoms ahead moments later before captain James Ferrara spurned the best chance of a winner in the final session as the game went to overtime.
Skipper Ferrara also failed to take an excellent chance early in the additional five minutes before Phantoms found themselves hanging on at a five-on-three disadvantage.
They had Scott Robson thrown out for a high-sticking offence in overtime with fellow defenceman Robbie Ferrara already sitting a penalty.
But they held firm to reach penalties where all three of their chosen men – Susters, Will Weldon and Billing – were denied by Lawday.
It meant the only successful effort from Thunder man Ross Bowers with his side’s second attempt was enough to earn the strugglers the extra point.
Phantoms now go to rock-bottom Invicta tonight (February 24, 5.15pm).
2.32 Billing ass: Susters/J. Ferrara
36.23 Susters (PP) unassisted
MILTON KEYNES THUNDER
0.38 Rubes ass: Whyte/Bowers
29.35 Rubes (SH) unassisted
PHANTOMS – Taylor Romeo
MILTON KEYNES THUNDER – Jordan Lawday