MATCH REPORT: Phantoms' play-off hopes hanging by a thread
Coach Slava Koulikov insisted '˜it is not over' despite Peterborough Phantoms suffering a double dose of English Premier League play-offs disappointment over the weekend.
The city team slipped to a second Group A loss in the space of 24 hours when Guildford triumphed 3-1 at Planet Ice last night (March 26). That reverse came hot on the heels of a 7-0 spanking in Telford the previous evening.
It proved to be a case of the second period being Phantoms’ downfall again. All seven of Telford’s goals arrived in that stanza and Guildford took command of this game with two goals in just under two minutes.
Danny Meyers thumped the visitors ahead with a powerplay blast at 25:10 and they soon doubled their lead when Andy Hemmings squeezed the puck in from a tight angle at 26:54.
Phantoms thought they had halved their arrears when Tom Norton struck on a numerical advantage of their own, but the effort was washed out after a conversation between referee Roman Szucs and the goal judge with the puck appearing to have dropped into the net through the side-netting.
Wehebe Darge did give Phantoms hope of a revival when applying the final touch to a James Archer shot with little more than five minutes to go, but it was dashed just 31 seconds later as Andy McKinney completed a Guildford breakaway.
Phantoms resorted to pulling netminder Janis Auzins in favour of an extra skater late on, but they couldn’t find the net again in a weekend in which they managed to strike only once in two hours of hockey. It’s a sudden downturn following a double-figures drubbing of Sheffield in their first play-off fixture last Wednesday.
Koulikov said: “We wanted to win at least one of the weekend games and we’re disappointed not to have done that.
“We didn’t start the game well enough against Guildford. We were hesitant and that was probably as a result of conceding so many goals in Telford the night before.
“It certainly wasn’t the plan to come out that way and it was something new for me to see. Usually after a bad Saturday, we see a response but that didn’t come until halfway through the game.
“But we got better as the game went on even though we conceded a couple of times in the second period.
“The guys had nothing to lose in the final period and gave everything they had. The pressure was growing shift by shift and we managed to get the goal we needed to get back into the game, but to concede on the very next shift was a killer and we couldn’t come back from that.
“We have to give full credit to Guildford. They have the skill, they play smart and they capitalised on the chances they created.
“We are in a tough position, but it is not over. There are many possible scenarios. If we win our remaining three games, we will still stand a good chance of going through, but none of them will be easy.
“It’s my job to find the key to get us performing as we all know we can. Losing the EPL Cup final so late in the season has probably had an effect on us because the emotions were so high and then dropped so low.”
Phantoms now sit third at the halfway stage of their four-team group with only the top two finishers advancing to finals weekend in Coventry.
They hit the road for Sheffield on Wednesday (March 29, 7.30pm) when a victory against the Steeldogs is a must. Phantoms will also be hoping Guildford can triumph against Telford on the same night.
The city men then host Telford on Saturday (April 1, 7pm) before completing the group at Guildford on Sunday (April 2, 6pm).
Group A standings: Guildford 6pts, Telford 4pts, Phantoms 2pts, Sheffield 0pts (all teams have played three games).
54:48 Darge ass: Archer/Norton
25:10 Meyers (PP) ass: Sihvonen/Campbell
26:54 Hemmings ass: Maslonka/Santavuori
55:19 McKinney ass: Eriksson
PHANTOMS – Wehebe Darge
GUILDFORD – Jens Eriksson