Standing in the Way – Peterborough Phantoms 2013/14

We move on with our series previewing the EPL teams that the Bison must face on the quest for EPL silverware. Tonight we have a look at another Planet Ice rink based side.

 

Name: Peterborough Phantoms

Home ice: Peterborough Arena

Position: 8th (playoff quarterfinalists)

Top scorer: Ondrej Lauko, 41 goals + 31 assists = 72 points

Ticket details: http://www.peterboroughphantoms.com/?page_id=96

 

Emma Strowger (@Emmziiii and http://icehockeyfan101.wordpress.com/)

Having one of the smallest budgets for team building in the English Premier League hasn’t stopped Peterborough Phantoms Head Coach Jon Kynaston splashing the cash this summer in order to change the fortunes of the Cambridgeshire side, which have only just made the playoffs on each of the past two occasions.

This season could also be somewhat of a transition year for the Phantoms. Gone are several key players and fan favourites i.e. Maris Ziedins, who took the decision to retire from the sport, Jeff Glowa, Ondrej Lauko who has moved back home to Slovakia and Tom Carlon who has jumped ship to the MK Lightning. They have, however, managed to keep hold of the hard hitting enforcer that is Jozef Sladok, albeit on a 5th import/injury cover basis as he looks to make the move from ice hockey to professional boxing. Defenceman Tom Norton has also left to join his hometown team, the Nottingham Panthers on a full time basis.

Despite this though, they have brought in many fresh new faces to make up a somewhat new look team, all of which are capable of replacing those who have moved on to pastures new. They have a completely new import line up in the shape of defenceman Marcel Petran and forward Jaroslav Cesky, both of whom know the league from their days at the Bracknell Bees and the Basingstoke Bison, with a bit of a spell at the Swindon Wildcats, respectively. In both of them we have guys that are capable of scoring goals both creatively and through the humble slapshot as Petran, in particular, boasts an unbelievably lethal shooting arm, as well as being capable of getting stuck in should the going get rough. There are also two rather interesting signings joining them on the import front and these come in the shape of Frantisek Zubek and Erik Piatak, who join from teams in their native Slovakia. The reason for this is because they are new to these shores and the EPL so no-one really knows what they are capable of until they step out onto the ice. I am slightly cautious over the signing of Piatak, simply because he had a stint on loan at the same team as former Phantoms flop, Erik Bochna and was therefore slightly worried that Bochna’s quiet, reserved, solitary style of play may rub off on to him. He could also become a gem of a signing. I can’t really speak a lot more about these two as I don’t know too much about the game on the continent, so I will leave that there!

On the British front, the Phantoms have again recruited well, bringing in some old faces as well as some you may not have expected to see in a Peterborough jersey. A primary example of the latter is a certain Nicky Watt. A good, all round player, Watt is capable of anything from scoring a goal to starting a fight and getting stuck in which in my opinion is what the city outfit have lacked a little in recent seasons. A lot of fans also say that he is a player that you may well hate but he is one you would like to see play for your team and I couldn’t agree more. He’s feisty, he’s not afraid and he can score, he’s got the lot! Another new player joining the team is Nottingham’s Marc Levers, who makes the step down from the Elite League crop in what could have possibly been a straight swap for the departed Norton. He has been signed primarily to play on defence, but can be put to good use all over the rink having played as a forward for most of his career, during which he has played for the Panthers and the Belfast Giants as well as representing Team GB.

Returnees for 2013/14 include Greg Pick who, like Watt, is an all-rounder who is not afraid to get stuck in at times, along with James Hutchinson who is in something like his third or fourth spell with the club in about 2 seasons. They are also joined by Robert, James and Luke aka ‘The Ferrara Brothers’ and young Nottingham lad Will Weldon. There is also a change of captain with the aforementioned James Ferrara taking over the “C” from former teammate Glowa. Personally, I think this is a great move made by the coaching team as James is a local lad, he’s determined, well committed to the job in hand and has a great attitude both on and off the ice and all of those qualities will stand him in good stead for the coming season as he prepares to lead the Phantoms.

Back stopping the Phantoms this year will be the returning Damien King, who despite only being 21 is arguably one of the best young net minders in the league after having taken the up the reins after Stephen Wall departed for Basingstoke a couple of seasons back. Joining him this season will be Thomas Murdy, who comes into the side after requesting his release from Swindon due to their capture of influential goalie Stevie Lyle from the Bison on a 2 year contract. I believe that he is very competent between the pipes and will give some healthy competition for the role of starting net minder. Young net minder Dan Lane will once again join up with the Phantoms, albeit on a 2 way contract with the Romford/London Raiders which I see no problem with at all as he will benefit from the experience as well as develop his skills and attributes through getting a sizable amount of ice time under his belt.

Also while on the subject of youngsters, Phantoms again have a good crop and have handed young local lad Lewis Hook a 2 year contract after he impressed last season. He’s quick, agile and can score goals – all that from a lad who is just 17! We also have the inclusion of Tom Soar (formerly of the Telford Tigers) and Declan Balmer (ex-Solway Sharks), who are certainly no strangers to Phantoms fans. You can also throw young, former Whitley Warrior Harry Harley into that equation as he played a couple of games for us while many of our team were away on Great Britain duty and who, along with Balmer, is making the full time switch up to the EPL. Finally we have Nathan Pollard. Another local lad coming through the juniors and into the senior ranks and like net minder Dan Lane, he will also be linking up with the Raiders.

Must give a small mention of the prospect players for this season, these are Alex Whyte, who iced a few times for us last season. He is joined by James White and Brad Moore, both of whom have come up from the junior ranks and will be linking up with the MK Thunder of the NIHL.

Even though I consider this to maybe be a bit of a transition year for the Phantoms, we seem to have a good strong side on paper, with a good set of new signings and up and coming young players along with a mix of returnees who proved to be of good quality last season. We seem to have strengthened the team and installed a lot of new qualities that we possibly didn’t have before i.e. the ability to be a bit more brutal when it counts as well as scoring plenty more goals, and because of this I see no reason why we can’t build on the disappointments of the past two seasons and really begin to challenge for at least mid-table or even higher.

 

Banners On The Wall

There’s a fair bit of change happened at Peterborough over the summer. Ondrej Lauko decided it was time to return to Slovakia, Jeff Glowa wasn’t retained and Maris Ziedins called time on his career and was rewarded with a jersey retirement. Even Jozef Sladok’s return is merely being registered as cover if an import gets injured as he pursues a boxing career so it’s 4 brand new imports for Jon Kynaston.

Former Slovak U20 centreman Erik Piatak comes to Peterborough with nearly 300 games of Slovak Extraliga experience. Piatak’s points per game ration in his homeland’s top flight isn’t stellar (0.26 ppg) but has averaged over a point per game in the 1.liga which should make him a potent offensive threat in the EPL and an able replacement for Lauko at the centre spot of the top line. His compatriot Frantisek Zubek comes to the Phantoms after 4 years of just under point per game hockey in the Czech 3rd tier which is around Slovak 2nd tier level including 87 points in 80 regular season games for VHK Vestin where last season he played alongside former short term Bison Marek Dubec. Between Zubek and Piatak there should be very good punch alongside perennial fan favourite Luke Ferrara as a 1st forward unit. Luke is also on a two-way contact with Cardiff and his time training at a higher level with better players will also further aid the game of the talented youngster.

The other two imports need very little introduction; Jaroslav Cesky impressed and at times frustrated the Bison faithful for a variety of reasons last season but was impressive in the playoff first leg with Swindon to show what he can do when he puts his mind to it.

Marcel Petran will be a very different kind of import defenceman to Sladok on a regular basis. Loved by Bees fans for his play and loved by Bison fans for his personality and mocked for his play, Petran is the signing that could make or break the season. If he performs well and a suitable defensive partner (likely James Hutchinson or Robert Ferrara) is found to cover his often noted positional shortcomings then it will allow Petran to use his impressive offensive skills to the Phantoms advantage. This is where Peterborough will really miss Tom Norton; arguably one of the best young defencemen in the league during his time with Milton Keynes and Peterborough, Norton is back full time with Nottingham this season and I don’t think he’s been adequately replaced. If someone doesn’t click with Petran this could hurt the Phantoms.

The other big name addition is Marc Levers. Fresh off of winning the long sought after league title, playoffs and challenge cup for the Nottingham Panthers (not a Grand Slam, you have to win ALL the trophies on offer for it to be a Grand Slam) but I fear some people might be expecting too much of the former Panthers man. Levers isn’t going to drop to EPL level and score 70 points, that’s not his game. What Levers will add is a really solid two way game and will add defensive stability to the forward ranks of a quality that was lacking the previous season.

Physical presence will come in the form of Nicky Watt who will be a replacement on that second line for Tom Carlon who has joined Milton Keynes. It’s no brainer that Watt will likely spend some time playing with Cesky but Watt will also see time on the third line to allow him to use the checking side of his game to full effect to rattle other teams but I do expect to see Watt with Cesky and perhaps Phantoms captain James Ferrara which would be a very effective second powerplay line, maybe with Petran on point firing pucks goalwards.

There’s some interesting depth to this side as well with players like Greg Pick and Declan Balmer on defence with Will Weldon and former Telford forward Thomas Soar in the forward ranks alongside the usual few junior players and Nathan Pollard who will be on a two way with Romford/London Raiders.

In net, Damien King continued his development into a quality EPL player last season but the 1-2 punch in net by the arrival of Tom Murdy from Swindon. Murdy’s departure was expected by everyone bar Ryan Aldridge on Stevie Lyle moved to The Link and it’s a move that should benefit the Phantoms having two solid netminders to be able to call on. Some argue that you never have two number one goalies but two number two goalies but I get the feeling that a decision between Murdy and King is the sort of problem that Jon Kynaston won’t mind having.

The overall outlook for the Phantoms is interesting. Some are predicting big things for this team with a few people on THF even predicting the Phantoms will finish third. This team will not finish third, sorry Peterborough fans. Mid table is the likely end station for this team unless they produce some truly magical hockey. I don’t want to sound too down on the Phantoms because this is a playoff team that will knick points from the top sides but I can’t see this team really setting the world on fire. There are questions over a defence that will heavily rely on Petran with his known faults and coaches will be able to coach against. There are questions as to whether the new imports will settle and be able to settle because if they have off nights, can the Ferrara brother create all the offence themselves? Phantoms have altered their roster, they’ve chosen a slightly different make up to last season but they haven’t strengthened enough to make me afraid of the ghosts.

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