Standing in the Way – Peterborough Phantoms

The season is fast approaching and Banners On The Wall is rumbling along with its previews of the Bison’s EPL opponents. We’ve done Tigers, we’ve done Cats, now it’s time to get spooky.

 

Name: Peterborough Phantoms

Home Ice: Peterborough Arena

Coach: Jon Kynaston

Last season: 8th, playoff quarter finalists

Top scorer: Maris Ziedins , 32 goals + 33 assists = 65 points

Match night ticket price: £13 adult, £8 Concessions, £6 child, £30 family (2 adults + 2 children), £32 family (2 adults + 3 children)

 

Goalies:

Following the departure of Stephen Wall midway through last season, the mantle of starting goalie for the Phantoms fell to Damien King. The Phantoms youth team product and long time backup was given the nod to take the reigns full time under Chris Allen and has earned the spot to start the season this time out. King has been developing for a while and now at 21 he is the go to guy in Cambridgeshire. King ended last season with a 4.11 goals against average and a .887 save percentage which are OK considering the defence he had in front of him last season. King also backstopped the Phantoms to a 3-2 first leg win in the playoffs over Guildford before the Flames came back and smoked Peterborough in the return leg. It’s a slightly different dynamic this season for King; last season he ended up as starter because Wall left and there was no replacement. This time out he is the chosen starter and hopefully that vote of confidence will spark that little bit extra in King to make him one of the top netminders in the league as the potential is certainly there.

Backing up King will be another Phantoms junior in Daniel Lane. The 18 year old played under 18s, ENL and made 2 brief appearances in the EPL last season. Lane’s save percentage was over .900 in ENL and under 18s so he’s got some skills there, that’s clear to see. I’m not overly familiar with Lane so we’ll see how much time he sees but initially I feel he’ll be used sparingly.

As part of the Phantoms junior development programme, a few youngster have been registered with the first team. One of those is 17 year old netminder Samuel James who will play most of his hockey with the NIHL side in Peterborough, the Islanders. Certainly one for the future, don’t expect to see much of James in this campaign.

 

Defence:

The big loss from the defence is last season’s player/coach and EPL all star Chris Allen. The literal 1 time former Florida Panther was also the highest scoring defender in the EPL but the Phantoms chose a different direction for the team and Allen is now in the ENL with his local team Solihull.

His replacement in the import defenceman stakes is 24 year old Slovak defenceman Jozef Sladok who joins from the Edinburgh Capitals. Sladok who has also played for Hull and Romford in Britain has never been the largest of point scorers on any of his career stops but has a reputation as much more as a defensive defenceman with a reputation for toughness. In one season during his stint in the OHL with Plymouth Whalers in 2007/08 he had 223 penalty minutes. This is a man who will most certainly stand up for his team mates if needed and be that physical presence. Given the size of some of the other defencemen and power forwards in the EPL, Sladok’s addition may be timely.

Also new to the Phantoms back line is 22 year old Tom Norton. Norton, who spent last season with Milton Keynes originally signed to return to Nottingham full time but fell victim to the EIHL’s stupidity in raising the import limit and found himself on a 2 way. In some respects this isn’t a bad move for Norton. He’ll be a top 4 defender in Peterborough and will see a lot more ice time than he would have if he was in Nottingham full time but then again we won’t know now will we. This is a very good pick up for the Phantoms as Norton is certainly a talent and was part of a very good Lightning back line last season.

Returning to the Phantoms for this campaign is James Hutchinson. Fresh off of winning the EIHL title with Belfast and former Phantoms hero Craig Peacock, Hutchinson has always been a high scoring defenceman in the EPL averaging nearly a point per game. When last with the Phantoms in 2010/11 he scored 41 points in 50 games which is a very good return for a British defenceman.

Returning from last season’s side is Joe Graham. Having joined at the start of last season from Guildford, Graham has a solid season with 29 points (8+21) and as he’s set to be a top 4 defenceman with powerplay time, there’s a chance he could equal or better those numbers.

The 5th defenceman for the Phantoms is set to be Robert Ferrara. Ferrara spent the last couple of seasons in the ENL with the Nottingham Lions and Islanders and might see a few minutes on the penalty kill but he main job will be to go out, not concede and make sure the top 4 get some rest.

Peter Burai and Declan Balmer are the junior players added to the roster on defence.

 

Forwards:

The Phantoms stuck to their guns in terms of their attacking imports with all 3 who ended the season in Peterborough returning for the current campaign.

Top scorer Maris Ziedins enters his 6th season in Peterborough and will always be a goal scoring threat for the Phantoms. Many forwards that attacking minded haven’t stayed in the EPL quite as long as Ziedins has and to have a player who consistently averages over 1.5 points a game and 30 goals a season on the roster and dedicated to the club is never a bad thing to have.

Jeff Glowa is back for his 3rd season in Peterborough. There was a noticeable drop in production last season (Glowa scored 30 less points last season than in 2010/11) but in what was a rather up and down season for the Phantoms that’s not a surprise. Production was down across the board. Glowa knows British hockey well enough and his skill level is such that it’s not that large of a concern. Glowa will always be a threat.

Ondrej Lauko is still fondly remembered in Basingstoke for obvious reasons. You won’t easily forget people who have 111 point seasons and smile all the time. Lauko moved to the Phantoms midway through the season and has now signed on full time for this campaign. Lauko, even in his 2nd season in Basingstoke where he had a drop in his scoring output, averages 1.7 points per game. That’s a fantastic number whatever what you look at it. He can certain to score at least 30-40 goals in a full campaign and will likely be the top line centre alongside Ziedins.

The other top line winger is likely to be James Ferrara who is coming off the back of a career year. The 24 year old Phantoms junior product had a career year with 64 points (18+46) which has to see Ferrara continue in his role alongside Lauko to start the season at least.

Tom Carlon is also back for another season. Carlon rejoined the Phantoms midway through the season after he was released by Slough due to “financial reasons” and managed 32 points in 25 games for the Phantoms. Carlon has at times been criticised for his work ethic but he is a top 6 finesse style of player so putting him on a line with someone like Jeff Glowa to feed him the puck should work well as the secondary attacking threat.

It wouldn’t be Peterborough without another Ferrara to throw into the mix as the other likely winger on the 2nd line has to be 19 year old Luke. The GB under 20 international scored 44 points last season (24+20) in just 36 games last season which surely will see him used in key attacking situations. If you’re having over 20 goal seasons at 19, you’re likely to get used…a lot. If nothing else it’s entirely possible that we’d see all 3 Ferraras on the ice at the same time which is, in my opinion, a fantastic thing to see.

New to the Phantoms this season is everyone’s favourite 5’6 hockey player, Jamie Line. An under 19s player in Swindon, Line at 22 is now onto his 5th EPL team after Bracknell, Slough, Basingstoke and Milton Keynes and sadly seems like his career in the EPL will be that of the perennial 3rd liner however that’s now the worst thing ever. I’ve said many times in the past that teams need players like Jamie Line. He has a decent shot, will skate through the wall and is a very effective penalty killer at EPL level and will be a good centre for the Phantoms 3rd line.

Likely to join Line on the 3rd line is former Nottingham junior Will Weldon who starts his 2nd season in Peterborough after a 13 point campaign last time out. Weldon was a standout at under 18 where he had a 79 point season in 2010/11 before joining the EPL full time last term. Whilst it’s likely that Weldon will start on the 3rd line, if he managed to hit 20-25 points it will serve him well and good performances will be rewarded with extra ice time in key situations especially players on the 1st and 2nd line aren’t performing or injured.

The other winger on that 3rd line is set to be utility player Nathan Pollard. 19 year old Pollard, whose twin brother Connor plays for the Isle of Wight spent the full season last term with the Phantoms after some impressive performances in juniors going 2+4 for 6 points last season as well as 1 game for the Islanders.

Peterborough has a small conveyor belt of youngster added to the roster to be 10th forward. The likely first candidates are Lewis Hook and Dundee junior product Jordan Cownie. Cownie had 36 points in 8 games in under 18s for Dundee last season and, along with Hook will see under 18 time in Peterborough this season.

18 year old Luke Barber dressed for 29 games for the Phantoms last season and will have dual registration with the Islanders in the NIHL this season and will likely get a fair amount of time as 10th forward.

16 year old Alex Whyte has a similar status to Barber but how much time he’ll see on an EPL match night remains to be seen.

 

Overall:

I’ll start with this; Peterborough deserve a lot of credit for actively adding young players to their roster. Call them academy players, junior players, whatever you want, the club is actively saying “we think these kids have the potential to be the future of this club and we’re going to invest in them and tell you publicly about it”. Where I criticised Guildford coach Paul Dixon for his comments about bringing junior players though, I should and I do praise the Phantoms for what they’re doing here. A 5 year old should know that there is the chance to progress from under 10s to the EPL, you have to earn it but you can get there.

The team for the 2012/13 season EPL Phantoms looks alright. I don’t think it’s a championship winning team for a number of reasons. Whilst King is a good netminder he is not of the standard of others and he’s being backed up by a youngster unproven at this level. The defence looks alright but no better than Swindon’s defence as an example and whilst the top 2 lines of forwards look handy, secondary scoring from the back end and 3rd lines look like they’ll be hard to come by, especially where that 3rd line looks a little on the light side.

Sladok however is a good addition to the back end and whilst I think that Peterborough are probably staring at a 6th placed finish at best, Sladok will likely be a fan favourite all being well. Also I don’t think there’ll be a shortage of goals in Peterborough given players like Ziedins, Lauko, Carlon and Glowa but if they can’t find a way through a team’s defence then they’re stuffed.

It won’t be as long a season as it was last time for the Phantoms but some of the lofty expectations of some fans are likely to fall flat. One Phantoms fan on THF predicted a 3rd place finish and I think they’re going to be sadly disappointed. It’ll be a battle with others in and around the last 2 playoff spots for Peterborough but I venture they could sneak 6th if all the stars align for them.

 

NOTE: There’s a lot of talk about whether James Morgan will play for the Phantoms, even to the point of the club making a press release about it. He’s not on the roster…yet, so he’s not included fully.

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