MATCH REPORT: Slava loves proving the critics wrong
Peterborough Phantoms coach Slava Koulikov reckons collecting an impressive victory over reigning champions Basingstoke last night (September 18) was the perfect way to prove people wrong.
The city men picked up their second successive home victory of the new English Premier League season when seeing off the Bison 2-1 in a battle of attrition at Planet Ice.
Summer recruit Ben Russell provided the decisive strike with his first Phantoms goal just before the mid-point of an engrossing contest.
It was another display from a hard-working team which proved that certain summer social media predictions of impending doom were wide of the mark.
Koulikov said: “We beat Basingstoke in the series last year and they are the kind of team to remember something like that.
“You always know what sort of game you are going to get against them, but we were prepared for that and the two points were well deserved.
“While the scoreline was tight, we had far more clear-cut chances in the final period and could have won the game more comfortably.
“We’ve had a couple of tough Saturdays on the road so far this season, but the responses we have had on successive Sundays in beating Swindon and Basingstoke have been very impressive.
“A lot of people seemed to write us off before the season started, and I was not surprised by that.
“They will have looked at the guys who left, the guys we signed and the fact we are an import down on the other teams in a very tough league.
“But I believe in the players and structure we have here, and we are already showing we can compete.”
Phantoms eased into an early advantage when Marc Levers blasted a shot past Bison netminder Tomas Hiadlovsky, but the lead proved to be short-lived as former Peterborough man Alan Lack teed up Joe Baird to bring Basingstoke level.
Phantoms had a lucky escape early in the second period when Aaron Connolly’s shot appeared to beat Janis Auzins, hit the net and bounce back out into play.
But there was no dispute when Russell picked his spot after being left in space in the zone to restore the hosts’ advantage - and they looked the likelier team to score again as the anticipated Basingstoke siege in the third period never really materialised.
James Archer and Owen Griffiths mis-fired in one-on-one situations either side of a powerplay in which Darius Pliskauskas thumped the bar and twice forced Hiadlovsky into fine saves.
The Bison netminder also denied Levers a clincher in the final minute, but such was the pressure from the home side that there were only a handful of seconds left by the Hiadlovsky was pulled - and it proved to be too little, too late as Phantoms claimed a notable scalp.
It’s a case of same opponents, different venues for Phantoms this weekend. They go to Basingstoke on Saturday (September 24, 6.30pm) and then host Milton Keynes at Planet Ice on Sunday (September 25, 5.30pm).
5:53 Levers ass: Padelek/J.Ferrara
29:33 Russell ass: Weldon/Archer
8:15 Baird ass: Lack
Phantoms – Janis Auzins
Basingstoke – Tomas Hiadlovsky