Standing In The Way – Peterborough Phantoms 2014/15Posted: 13/09/2014
Home Ice: Peterborough Arena
Last season: 9th
Last season in a nutshell:
Last year was a disappointment overall, alleviated a great deal by the post – Christmas performance. The change of coach, bringing in former Slough Player/Coach Slava Koulikov and resulting change of style got us to within a point of the play offs, and despite losing out to Bracknell, the season ended well.
The off season began unhappily for some fans, the announcement of various players leaving the club, names like Damien King, Lewis Hook, Erik Piatak and Marcel Petran and others departing. However, the summer signings started we saw unknowns coming to these shores, Forward Milan Baranyk, D Man Edgars Apelis and Netminder Janis Auzins, as well as some unexpected signings such as Edgars Bebris and development coach Lee Elias, a former US College player/Coach with a record of winning silverware under his belt. Confidence began to rise and a surprisingly large number of people attended both the teams first training session and the Meet The Players Night.
That confidence gained a further boost when the Phantoms faced the relatively unprepared Elite League Hull Stingrays gaining a 6-3 win. This could have been a false dawn as the following Wednesday, as a much better prepared and more co-ordinated Hull were 4-0 winners. It wasn’t doom and gloom, it was expected and the final goal was an empty netter in an attempt to break the shut out. A much more tangible boost came last weekend during the regular pre-season derby against the Milton Keynes Lightning for the Ashes, an emphatic 2-5 win on the “away” leg, followed by a 3-1 home leg win saw the Phantoms put on a good display of hockey that while it had it’s moments, (such as Lack checking Lewis Christie hard enough to lift him over the boards and into the MKL Bench), maybe appealed more to the purists than the everyday fan.
Overall, it’s a confident feeling Phantoms camp, looking at the team:
The New Boy: Janis Auzins will get a lot of attention, a preseason GAA of under 2.5 and a save average of .94 will do that, but I will tip Edgars Apelis as the one to watch. He’s a solid unit, positions well and it was interesting to watch both Hull and MK players bouncing off of him, not expecting him to be as hard to shift as he was. If he continues like this, it could be that by Christmas, Phantoms fans will be saying “Marcel who”?
The Captain is a vital position. A leader on and off the ice, he must be able to lead by example, being fired up to lift the team, while calm and collected to communicate effectively with on ice officials and defuse situations that don’t play to the advantage of the team. In James Ferrara, the Phantoms have this in spades. The quietly spoken, highly educated Ferrara has the hockey skills to match. While younger brother Luke prepares the path for a move to the Elite League potentially, James has been there, done that, and has brought that experience back to the team.
How We’ll Do:
Better than last season. I know there are aims within the team. Those will stay in the team as it’s not my place to publish them. I believe with the team we have, a finish as high as 4th is not impossible and a good showing in the Challenge Cup and the post season Play Offs is likely. While we may not have a long bench, I believe the quality is there to bring back some very good results.
So here we are, 10teams down and we’re at the last one; the first one as it were as the Phantoms are the Bison’s opening night opponents.
The Phantoms side that finished last season was a mix of two teams; what started and what Slava Koulikov cobbled together when he joined mid-season. It wasn’t a pretty sight and the Phantoms rightly missed the playoffs as they weren’t good enough. Coach Koulikov has had a whole summer to tweak things around and has put together an interesting looking roster.
After rather disgracefully sending Damien King on his way with a one line goodbye under a photo on Facebook, as he did in Slough, Koulikov has gone for an import netminder in the form of Janis Auzins. Having had decent numbers in the Slovakian second tier with Detva, the 23 year old Latvian is in a prime position to make an impact and was reportedly solid in pre-season games with Hull and MK but needs to maintain that across the season.
The Phantoms defence looks good if unspectacular. With Marcel Petran and his jazzhands waving goodbye to the EPL, it’s a less flamboyant looking Peterborough blueline. Players of the quality of Tom Norton, probably the biggest victim of the EIHL’s import increase will not go amiss alongside Petran’s import replacement, Edgars Apelis. After bouncing between France, Latvia and Ukraine last season, he will be hoping for more stability in Cambridgeshire this term and some of his previous campaigns have yielded decent points returns which bodes well for Phantoms fans.
Upfront the Phantoms benefit from having not 1, but 2 foreign born players with British classification in Koulikov and new arrival Edgars Bebris who joins from Sheffield. Bebris fitted in well to the Steeldogs game and was a former Sheffield junior but this move away from what he is used to will arguably benefit his game as he gets to test his skills in a different system and surrounding. I’m sure he’ll get a traditional Steeldogs welcome when the Phantoms visit Ice Sheffield.
The other top Brits are well known names to the locals like Marc Levers and the Ferrara brothers James and Luke, the later being on a two way contract with Sheffield Steelers. The one Brit pickup I really like is Alan Lack who signs from Slough. One of the league’s premier agitators, I personally get a real kick out of watching Alan play so am glad he has found a place in the league.
With one forward in net and one on defence, the returning Darius Pliskauskas and new import forward Milan Baranyk who joins from Polish side GKS Tychy will be looked upon for lots of scoring. Baranyk has an impressive record in the Polish top flight and if he finds his feet should be as popular as Ondrej Lauko was in Peterborough.
Overall this Phantoms roster looks alright; not amazing but alright. With only one team missing the playoffs this season, I don’t think the Phantoms are that team but so much depends on what happens in net with Auzins. If he swims, then there’s a chance they make 5th or 6th. If he sinks then it’s a battle with Bracknell for 8th spot.