Peterborough Phantoms enjoyed a fine Sunday (December 16) night - thanks to their own exploits and events 90 miles away.
The city side maintained top spot in the NIHL Division One South standings thanks to a 3-0 success against struggling Milton Keynes Thunder at Planet Ice.
A victory - secured by a goal in each period from Ales Padelek, Petr Stepanek and captain James Ferrara - was nowhere near as smooth as the
scoreline might suggest.
Netminder Jordan Marr earned his shut-out the hard way by keeping out all 22 on-target attempts from the hard-working and occasionally hard-hitting visitors during a man-of-the-match display.
But the joy of ending a hectic run of eight fixtures in 16 days on a winning note increased moments after the final buzzer had sounded in Bretton as news filtered through of a 6-4 defeat for title rivals Swindon at Romford side Raiders.
Those two results left Phantoms three points clear at the summit and they also boast two games in hand on the Wildcats.
Head coach Slava Koulikov said: “It was a difficult night to end a tough run of games. We got the goals we needed against MK in our third game in three nights and our netminder definitely stood tall to help us get the two important points.
“I don’t think anyone could ask for any more from the guys after coming out of such a busy spell with a trophy and sitting top of the league.
“It’s a huge achievement to be in the sort of position I thought I could only dream about. The guys have battled hard every time they have been on the ice and they have earned a rest.
“The break has definitely come at the right time for us to recharge the batteries while enjoying Christmas. I’ve told them all to stay away from the rink until Boxing Day when we’ll practice as we always do on a Wednesday.”
A moment of quality from Padelek have Phantoms the edge in a low-key opening period last night. The Czech veteran burst into the zone and fired a rising finish across Thunder netminder Jordan Lawday and into the far corner.
The visiting goaltender had made a host of saves before then to keep the score line blank while opposite number Marr also needed to make a couple of smart stops in the opening period - the latter of which denied Thunder youngster Sam Talbot a short-handed leveller.
The second period followed a similar pattern with both netminders impressing before a Phantoms import found the net. This time it was Petr Stepanek who swept home a Glenn Billing pass to double their advantage with just under 90 seconds remaining in the session.
Marr was again seen to good effect as Phantoms had to kill penalties - including a 48-second spell of five-on-three - early in the third period.
But they survived that numerical disadvantage and sealed victory when Ferrara finished at the second attempt after Padelek unlocked the Thunder defence.
Phantoms now have a 13-day break until the return to the ice with a trip to Swindon on Saturday, December 29. They could well be off the top of the table by then with the Wildcats in action on three occasions before the sides go head-to-head at The Link Centre.
17.53 Padelek ass: Billing/J. Ferrara
38.32 Stepanek ass: Billing
51.36 J. Ferrara ass: Padelek/Billing
MILTON KEYNES THUNDER
PHANTOMS - Jordan Marr
MILTON KEYNES THUNDER - Sam Talbot