Peterborough Phantoms player-coach Slava Koulikov admitted a shortage of players took its toll as his team crashed to derby defeat at MK Lightning last night (February 14).
The city outfit’s hopes of a runners-up finish in the English Premier League were dealt a blow by a 5-3 loss at their fierce rivals on a night when they had six men missing.
Long-term absentees Darius Pliskauskas, James Hutchinson, Mason Webster and Martins Susters were joined on the list of casualties by Luke Ferrara, who was still feeling the effects of a blow to the head sustained the previous weekend. Meanwhile Greg Pick started a mammoth seven-game suspension.
Two Lightning imports did the damage as Milan Kostourek hit a hat-trick during a man-of-the-match performance and Curtis Huppe struck twice, including a late empty-net clincher after Phantoms had pulled netminder Janis Auzins.
Koulikov said: “We got ourselves level at 2-2 and 3-3, but the fact we are so short-staffed told in the end.
“We made a few mistakes which cost us the game and Milton Keynes played well on their own ice.
“It is the first time we have not taken at least a point in seven games, but every run has to end.
“Our job of qualifying for the play-offs is done and they are our focus. Obviously we want to win as many games as possible during the rest of the regular season, but the main concern is getting guys back on the ice.”
Phantoms found themselves two goals down in the opening session last night, but levelled after finding the net twice in the space of 31 seconds thanks to a short-handed Edgars Bebris effort and Tom Norton.
The hosts replied with a short-handed effort of their own early in the second period and saw another effort scrubbed out in the final minute of that session as the puck was kicked in.
Bebris had Phantoms back on level terms 55 seconds into the final period, but Kostourek’s hat-trick goal left them behind again with little more than 10 minutes to play.
Phantoms sacrificed Auzins in the dying moments in a bid to snatch a leveller, but their hopes were ended when Huppe fired into the empty net with 15 seconds remaining.
Phantoms dropped to fourth in the table after being leapfrogged by Basingstoke who visit Planet Ice tonight (February 15, 5.30pm).
6:21 Kostourek ass: Carr/Bowers
11:43 Huppe ass: Horava/Kostourek
24:19 Kostourek (SH) ass: Hook
49:56 Kostourek ass: Horava
59:45 Huppe ass: Emersic/Carr
16:55 Bebris (SH) ass: Auzins
17:26 Norton ass: Kumeliauskas/J. Ferrara
40:55 Bebris ass: Baranyk/J. Ferrara
Milton Keynes – Milan Kostourek
Phantoms – Janis Auzins