MATCH REPORT: Phantoms are a team scoring for fun
In a town famed for its illuminations, Phantoms continued to light up the English Premier League last night (November 6).
The city men made the marathon trek to Blackpool – the temporary home of Manchester Phoenix – worthwhile by sinking the second tier’s bottom side 6-1.
It completed a second successive four-point weekend for a Phantoms team suddenly scoring for fun and shining on the road as well as on their own ice.
They’ve found the twine 22 times while putting together a four-game hot streak which has catapulted them up to fourth in the standings . . . not bad for a side written off by plenty of people before a puck had been dropped.
“There are not many things I can complain about right now,” joked coach Slava Koulikov as he neared the end of a 15-hour day and a round trip of close to 400 miles.
“This was a game we could easily have slipped up in if we didn’t have the right focus.
“It is not easy to be mentally ready after such a long journey and a tough game the night before.
“The fact we had to kill a five-minute penalty very early on certainly wasn’t ideal either, but we got through that spell and managed to score the goals that put a pretty even game to bed by the end of the second period.
“Teams like Manchester and Bracknell might be getting left behind at the bottom of the table, but they have both given us tough games on the last two Sundays.
“I have said it many times, but I will repeat myself again – there are no easy nights in the EPL any more.
“The league is so tough and putting together a run of four wins is a really good effort.”
Phantoms hit the ice at the Fylde Coast Ice Arena without influential forward Marc Levers.
He sustained a foot injury towards the end of the home success against Swindon the previous night and went to hospital for x-rays which came back clear.
And they suffered an early blow in the north-west as Sam Towner was thrown out.
The former Hull man, was ejected little more than a minute into his second game back from an injury layoff, following an accidental high-sticking offence.
But Phantoms have proved they have the depth to deal with such hiccups and Petr Stepanek made the breakthrough before linemate Will Weldon provided a two-goal cushion before the first break.
Phantoms kicked on in the second session. Former Manchester man James Archer struck against his old club before Ales Padelek bagged a brace.
The second of those goals arrived just 28 seconds before the buzzer and all but ended the resistance of a hard-working Phoenix side.
The only disappointment for Phantoms was the concession of a consolation goal 37 seconds into the final stanza.
Roman Malinik finally found a way past netminder Janis Auzins on a night when the Latvian star dealt with the other 47 shots on his target.
Opposing netminder Stephen Fone was taken out of the firing line by Manchester chief Tony Hand ahead of the closing period.
His replacement, Dennis Bell, was beaten once as Darius Pliskauskas completed the scoring to add a goal to an earlier hat-trick of assists.
The Lithuanian international’s effort also put the seal on another fine Phantoms weekend.
The latest success also left them well placed to qualify for the semi-finals of the EPL Cup.
Results from the first round of home and away fixtures count towards that competition with the leading four teams going on to the latter stages.
And fourth place is well within Phantoms’ reach as they still have home against the struggling pair of Manchester and Bracknell to come.
More immediately Phantoms face two of the three teams currently above them in the league standings.
They go to third-placed Hull on Saturday (November 12, 6pm) before hosting table-topping Telford on Sunday (November 13, 5.30pm).
40:37 Malinik ass: Kovar/Bebris
13:19 Stepanek ass: Weldon
18:44 Weldon ass: Stepanek/White
29:16 Archer ass: Pliskauskas/Padelek
34:38 Padelek ass: J. Ferrara/Pliskauskas
39:32 Padelek ass: J. Ferrara/Pliskauskas
49:27 Pliskauskas ass: Padelek/Robson
MANCHESTER – Edgars Bebris
PHANTOMS – Janis Auzins