Standing in the Way – Peterborough PhantomsPosted: 02/09/2016
Home Ice: Peterborough Arena
Last season: 2nd, cup finalists, playoff semi-finalists
Team Preview: Dan Breen – match night announcer
Last Season in a Nutshell: Nearly.
For whatever reason, (and these were poured over in detail, by coaches, players and fans alike), the Phantoms just couldn’t quite get it done last year, despite walking away empty handed, it was clearly the best, most consistent season since that season.
The losses from the team this year for various reasons are not as catastrophic as fans may have first thought and some interesting choices for new players have left many Phantoms fans wondering if it’s back to the foot of the league again for a team clearly working on a budget. That said, there are some interesting new faces.
The Returnee: This year we have a lot of new players, so the returnees are going to be looked to by the coaching staff and the captain to help provide continuity, and one of the key figures for this will be Tom Norton. Tom is one of the quietly consistent D Men that you barely notice, because he rarely does anything wrong. He has been a positive influence on the other returning D men over the years and will play a big role in bringing together the new boys into a solid D Corps.
The New Boy: Quite a few to choose from, but for me so far Tom Stubley, being one of the youngest players on the team would be my pick, because he doesn’t play like a typical face-cage. A full season with the Pirates where he logged a lot of ice time has given him experience that will be well utilised here.
I don’t think we’ll hit the dizzying heights of last season, but the first signs from the pre-season games look promising.
I took a lot of flack last season when it came to Peterborough. The Phantoms won 2 games in Basingstoke during the league and I got accused of a variety of things; bias, rose tinted spectacles, not giving Peterborough their due. I was told “maybe Peterborough were just better, did you think about that?” I did think about that and I will stand by what I said. I think as well over the course of the campaign that Peterborough flattered to deceive which was born out by the end results. They fell away in the title race, the playoff semi final was a bit of a damp squib and we won’t mention the cup final.
However, credit where it is due; I have to tip my hat to Slava Koulikov. He has a knack for getting teams to be more than the sum of its parts and perform above itself. That’s a real skill and he was rightly coach of the season in 2014/15. I am fascinated by the side that he’s put together for this season as well as I’m not quite sure how to read it.
Given the tendency of teams to move towards import netminders, keeping one who knows the league and has excelled like Janis Auzins keeps the Phantoms instantly competitive. I’ve made my feelings perfectly clear about Auzins numerous times so I won’t go in to those but we can’t reiterate that when he is on his game, he is on 100%. Support from Adam Long and Dan Lane gives the Phantoms options off the bench in the event of a crisis.
The rest of the Phantoms roster is then really split between who has stayed then who has replaced those have gone.
In terms of the names that they’ve managed to keep, the big guns are the sort of names that will walk into any team. Tom Norton is arguably the best defenceman in the league. Marc Levers continues to prove that quality breathes longevity. Will Weldon is one of those players that you almost forget about and then he burns you. Despite their advanced years both Darius Pliskauskas and Ales Padelek have a tendency to pop up and score at the best possible moment. What James and Robert Ferrara add to the Phantoms could fill a book.
Who is lining up alongside them is where the real discussion begins. There’s some big names gone from that roster. Craig Scott and Milan Baranyk have committed the mortal sin of leaving for the Lightning, Edgars Bebris has gone to Manchester, Cam McGiffin has stepped up to the EIHL and depth players like Brad Moore, Lloyd Gibson and Greg Pick are also gone.
Back in the country after making the NZIHL finals, James Archer’s return to the team he won the grand slam with is a pretty fair swap for Bebris and adds a legitimate top 6 British forward to the line up. Also coming in up front is the impressive Sam Towner from Hull who I am intrigued to see slot into the Phantoms’ top two lines.
Also joining up front are Czech forward Petr Stepanek from Czech 3rd tier side Zdar nad Sazavou and a summer in Australia and recently added Slovakian, Mario Uhrik on trial. A product of Topolcany, 28 year old Uhrik last played competitive hockey in 2013.
Slava Koulikov has always been one for giving young players a chance and this continues with the additions of Connor Glossop to the forward lines as well as Phantoms junior Callum Medcalf on defence. The one youngster that I am very keen on is Owen Griffiths. Under utilised in Swindon in my opinion, I am more hopeful that he’ll get some chances in Peterborough.
See what I mean about this roster being interesting? It’s hard to really get a handle on. It does, in some ways, look weaker than last season’s side. We can only speculate over whether some changes were financially enforced or not but you do have to wonder with personnel changes or not whether this team will play any differently than the Phantoms last year in terms of game plan. I think there’s a fair argument that individually there’s less quality per player than last time out but that’s not necessarily the point in the grand scheme of things.
Does this team finish second again? I don’t think. Can we count them out of throwing many spanners in the works? Absolutely.