Peterborough Phantoms facing a tough test tonight
Peterborough Phantoms face a potentially feisty NIHL Division One South clash against Bracknell tonight (March 6) - only a fortnight after ugly scenes marred their last encounter.
The city team can take a big step towards securing a runners-up finish for the second successive season as they host the Bees at Planet Ice (7.45pm).
Phantoms beat Bracknell 9-5 on aggregate in an NIHL South Cup semi-final last month, but the Berkshire side did not take kindly to a 3-2 loss on their home ice in the second leg.
Their head coach Doug Sheppard and four of his players received suspensions in the aftermath of an unsavoury incident following the final buzzer. Three of those men – Brendan Baird, Joe Baird and Ryan Watt - are out tonight as a result.
Watt was actually banned for 21 games for an attack on Phantoms captain James Ferrara before also having an altercation with a supporter as he left the ice.
The Scottish forward then released a lengthy and inflammatory statement on the matter on social media late last week.
“It won’t be an easy game because both teams will want to win,” said Phantoms head coach Koulikov.
“We need the points to help us secure second place and Bracknell are also looking to finish as high as they can possibly can.
“We’re in the middle of a tough run of four successive midweek games with this being the third of them.
“What happened in Bracknell is in the past. The incident was dealt with and we have moved on.
“We will see what type of hockey they choose to bring into our building.
“I’m aware of Ryan’s statement but I haven’t read it. He obviously wanted to put his views out there, but at the end of the day rules are rules.”
Watt blamed the ugly scenes in Bracknell a fortnight ago on Phantoms forward James White goading Bracknell captain Joe Baird by pointing at the scoreboard late in the second leg.
Watt also made no apology for his thuggish attack on Phantoms skipper James Ferrara in the melee that followed the final buzzer.
He also claimed to act in self-defence following an altercation with a Phantoms supporter. The city club know the identity of the fan involved but are not understood to have taken any action against him.
White and Ferrara both declined to speak about the contents of Watt’s lengthy statement.
Captain Ferrara said: “Ryan is allowed to voice his opinion and say what he thinks, but I’ve got no comment to make about the situation that happened in Bracknell or the contents of his statement.
“All I’m concentrating on is helping Phantoms to achieve the things we want to this season.
“Bracknell did whatever they felt they needed to do that night and that’s over now. We’ve already had a lot of games since then and we have plenty more important ones ahead.
“We want to cement our league position, keep building momentum for the second leg of the cup final and the play-offs.
“Bracknell will also want to finish as high as they can and hit the play-offs in form so there will be plenty to play for.
“We’ll approach this game in the same way as we do all others.”
Phantoms are six points behind leaders Swindon, who now need only one more win to clinch the title.
But the city men are firm favourites to finish as runners-up after pulling four points clear of reigning champions Basingstoke.
Phantoms scored 25 goals during last weekend when following up a 10-5 success at Streatham with a 15-0 home victory against a heavily depleted Invicta side.
The Dynamos were only able to name eight players for the Sunday (March 3) clash at Planet Ice – two fewer than the minimum required for an official fixture – and the game was subsequently made a 5-0 walkover to Phantoms.