MATCH REPORT: City side are trumped after losing a four-goal lead
There appeared to be more chance of Donald Trump winning a diplomacy contest than Peterborough Phantoms losing this English Premier League fixture last night (October 9).
The city side struck four times inside the first four and a half minutes against a Sheffield Steeldogs team only able to ice two imports at Planet Ice.
But a dream start gave way to a nightmare result as the visitors gradually clawed their way back into the contest - helped by some defensive generosity from their hosts and a hugely debatable call from referee Stefan Hogarth - before equalising late in the third period, shutting out overtime and prevailing 5-4 following penalties.
It was a most unexpected outcome and one which will really have hurt a Phantoms side who allowed such a rip-roaring start to go to waste.
A point gained and a place climbed in the standings didn’t help their mood as their one-win-every-weekend record was ended.
As the post-match inquest began, the early blitz - started by Marc Levers’ opener after 48 seconds - was a distant memory.
His floater of a shot from out wide really ought to have been kept out by Steeldogs netminder James Hadfield although the visiting shot-stopper was blameless 56 seconds later when Ales Padelek doubled the advantage in a one-on-one situation.
The Czech veteran added another goal a couple of minutes after that before a powerplay effort from captain James Ferrara completed the whirlwind Phantoms opening at 4:26.
Victory looked all but assured at that point, but Sheffield had clearly read a different script and halved their arrears during the remainder of the opening session.
An Owen Griffiths error was punished by Liam Kirk and more defensive sloppiness led to Andrew Hirst firing past Phantoms netminder Adam Long.
It was a case of calm after the storm in a blank second period in which moments of attacking threat were few and far between, but the drama was cranked up a notch early in the final session.
Only 14 seconds had passed when Steeldogs defenceman Tim Smith was left face-down and bloodied on the ice with official Hogarth arriving at the conclusion that Phantoms forward James Archer had inflicted the wound with a check to the head.
It was a harsh call (especially as on first viewing it looked as though Archer did his best to avoid a stretching opponent) and one which came complete with an ejection on a match penalty, and a five-minute powerplay for the visitors.
Phantoms doggedly defended their zone before eventually succumbing with 20 seconds of the numerical advantage remaining when Cole Shudra cut their once emphatic lead to just one goal.
The hosts didn’t attempt to sit on the slender cushion. Instead they carved out plenty of chances with Griffiths twice being denied before smart Hadfield stops kept out Martins Susters and the hat-trick seeking Padelek.
But when another goal did eventually arrive it was at the other end.
Classy Steeldogs youngster Kirk broke and fired a fine pass into the path of Arnoldas Bosas to rifle in a leveller with less than three minutes to go.
Phantoms immediately went in search of a last-gasp winner but Petr Stepanek and Susters could find no way past Hadfield - and it was a similar story in overtime as the home side looked the likeliest scorers until losing Stepanek to an elbows call with just over a minute on the clock.
Then survived the remaining 65 seconds against an extra skater, but couldn’t prevent Sheffield from completing their unlikely comeback on penalties.
Kirk and Shudra put away the visitors’ opening two efforts while only Padelek could light the limp for the hosts as a night that promised so much ultimately delivered so little.
“We put ourselves in a great position with an excellent start to the game, but we then switched off,” admitted Phantoms coach Slava Koulikov.
“We got a little bit sloppy to concede a couple of goals in the first period, but we didn’t give Sheffield any chances in the second.
“Going into the third period 4-2 up I was still pretty confident of getting the win, but we lost one of our main guys on a match penalty and that had a big effect.
“I really want to see the video of the incident again as it looked to me that James tried to move away from making the hit.
“We conceded right at the end of the powerplay and that was probably a turning point as it made it a one-goal game and Sheffield then got level.
“When you get to overtime and penalties, anything can happen. It went our way against Telford the previous weekend, but this time it didn’t.
“We’ve managed to pick up one win every weekend until now. It’s disappointing to dip below the 50 per cent ratio, but we will keep working hard.”
Phantoms now sit seventh in the EPL standings ahead of a trip to reigning champions Basingstoke, who are eighth, this Saturday (October 15). They have already tasted home and away success against the Bison this season.
A home clash against Swindon follows on Sunday (October 16).
0:48 Levers ass: Pliskauskas/Norton
1:42 Padelek ass: Russell/Archer
3:47 Padelek ass: Darge
4:26 J. Ferrara (PP) ass: Pliskauskas/Darge
5:50 Kirk (DP) unassisted
15:48 Hirst ass: Brcko/Wood
44:54 Shudra (PP) ass: Bosas/Brcko
57:19 Bosas ass: Kirk