Peterborough Phantoms coach Slava Koulikov praised his young guns after an emphatic English Challenge Cup success last night (December 14).
Fans’ favourite Alan Lack did the majority of the damage with four of the goals in a 7-1 drubbing of Blackburn Hawks at Planet Ice, but three teenage call-ups were among the players to impress as a meaningless contest became a worthwhile exercise.
Castor lad James White, who has been part of the Peterborough system since the age of eight, collected his first points in a Phantoms jersey with two assists while netminder Adam Long stopped all but one of the 17 shots he faced.
Long’s fellow Hampton College pupil Ryan Fraley also caught the eye while Mason Webster delivered a typically gritty display to celebrate the award of a deal with Phantoms until the end of the season following a successful trial period.
“We need to win our home games and entertain our fans regardless of the competition we’re playing in,” stressed Koulikov.
“And I’m sure everyone will agree we managed that. There was lots of goals and excitement, and it was nice to be able to give youngsters the chance to get some ice-time.
“They did very well and it will only help their development. The Challenge Cup is useful in that respect.”
Visitors Blackburn did hold the briefest of leads in the opening period and looked to serve up the big hits throughout, but they could be described by the surname belonging to their set of three brothers – Brittle.
The gulf in class between a Hawks team who can be found at the top of the English National League’s Moralee Conference and a Phantoms side riding high in second spot in the English Premier League was clear to see.
Their opener from one of the siblings, Adam Brittle, was swiftly cancelled out by Lack just seven seconds later.
Captain James Ferrara then edged Phantoms, who used defenceman Edgars Apelis and forward Milan Baranyk as their two permitted imports, ahead on a powerplay in the final second of the opening session.
The same two home players – Lack and Ferrara - struck again during the middle stanza before Lack continued his goal spree in the final period.
His hat-trick goal arrived 55 seconds after the action resumed and came complete with an incorrect public address announcement. The effort was initially wrongly credited to Will Weldon who had to content himself with a hat-trick of assists.
Marc Levers became Phantoms’ third different goalscorers moments later before Lack fittingly applied the final gloss just past the mid-point of the period.
The closing stages were somewhat surreal as defenceman James Hutchinson took advantage of a break in play to make an early exit. Every second clearly counts on a Sunday night as the Geordie races to catch the last train home to his native North-East.
And then Phantoms called a late time-out before pulling netminder Long for the final 31 seconds of powerplay despite their six-goal cushion.
It was no doubt an attempt to enable one of the youngsters involved to get on the scoresheet, but they were unable to find another way Blackburn netminder and man-of-the-match Daniel Brittle.
Phantoms return to the heat of English Premier League battle on Saturday when hosting reigning champions Manchester at Planet Ice (7pm).
They travel to Billingham for their next Challenge Cup clash the following night.
12:59 Lack ass: Baranyk/Weldon
19:59 J. Ferrara (PP) ass: Bebris/Levers
23:46 Lack (PP) ass: Baranyk/Norton
38:57 J. Ferrara ass: White
40:55 Lack ass: Weldon/Webster
43:49 Levers ass: White/Bebris
50:09 Lack ass: Webster/Weldon
12:52 A. Brittle ass: Lomax
Phantoms – Alan Lack
Blackburn – Daniel Brittle