Standing in the Way – Peterborough Phantoms

Peterborough Phantoms

Founded: 2002

Home ice: Peterborough Arena

Website: www.gophantoms.co.uk

Last season: EPL 4th place, cup finalists, playoff group stages

We saw them at the weekend but that was a snapshot. What does the season as a whole hold for the Peterborough Phantoms?

Last season:

Neither the Bison nor the Phantoms could repeat the successes of 2015/16 in 2016/17. All teams in the EPL were blown away by Telford’s on ice strength but it was still a more than respectable season from the Cambridgeshire side. A decent run at the start of the season and results going their way saw them beat the Bison to the cup semi-finals. The new cup format of scrapping aggregate saw them beat Telford at home and rebound from the 7-2 on ice loss in the 60 minutes of the second leg to take their spot in the finals on penalties. The final against long time rivals MK Lightning again saw a split in the legs and a penalty shootout in MK where Adam Carr beat Janis Auzins to keep the cup in Buckinghamshire.

In the league, it was a solid performance across the season from the Phantoms who finished 11 points clear of 5th placed Guildford. The Bison and the Phantoms would battle for third for most of the later stages of the season before the Bison squeaked third place sending Peterborough into a playoff group with Guildford, Telford and Sheffield.

Where Guildford finally woke up and Sheffield were swept away, it was a mixed bag for the Phantoms who finished with a 3-3 record in their 6 games and missed out on a trip to Coventry.

How they got here:

The Phantoms are one of the EPL 4 who have joined NIHL 1 South for this season, joining on the advice of EIHA chairman Ken Taggart as the EPL crumbled away like a good cheese.

The returnee:

There are few better defencemen in the entire NIHL than Tom Norton on his day. The fact the former Nottingham Panthers defender isn’t in the EIHL somewhere is a matter of confusion for many, certainly this writer, but Slava Koulikov and the Phantoms won’t mind that one bit. Whilst many will argue the toss on this one, any discussion on who the best blueliner was in the final two years of the EPL has to include Norton. Positionally sound, adds to the attack from the back end, few penalty minutes, rarely makes mistakes; Norton would walk into any NIHL roster. With a decent amount of experience for a 27 year old, Norton leads the Phantoms from the back and isn’t afraid to jump into the play when needed.

The new boy:

This one is based somewhat off of the game the other night but if Nathan Salem plays like he did in Basingstoke on Saturday then this is going to be an exciting season to watch for the former Telford and Hull forward.

Salem spent the entire game racing around like a rabbit at the greyhound track turned up to 11 and was my pick for man of the match on the night. Salem can score though it appears, or at least it did on Saturday, that Koulikov will want Salem to be a physical player. Certainly his forechecking caused the Bison some issues as he put pressure on players immediately with his speed and tenacity.

How will it go?

We got a snapshot of the Phantoms over the weekend. It certainly was a weekend of two halves for the Phantoms who woke up on Sunday after getting a lesson on the Saturday night. 2 games, 10 goals conceded and shut out on one night isn’t an auspicious pre-season.

However as mentioned above, it’s a snapshot. The team has not had that many training sessions and things will still be a work in progress for them. The changes to what league they’re in have taken an effect on the focus of this Phantoms roster.

Talismanic/utterly barking mad netminder Janis Auzins was a casualty of the drop in imports and only being allowed one import on the ice meaning that Adam Long is the go to netminder this season. Did Long have a bad night on Saturday? Yes. Does he have the ability to last the season and start in this league? Also yes. Long showed in numerous EPL games that he can do the business and that ability won’t have magically vanished in the summer. The difference for Long is the mentality he’ll have to adopt. He is now the man between the pipes. Being understudy for Auzins likely saw him learn well but he’s now centre stage and Phantoms fans are hopeful that he will rise to the challenge.

Otherwise I think this is a pretty decent roster that the Phantoms have put together. Blueline wise alongside Norton there’s the ample talents of Ben Russell, Rob Ferrara, Scott Robson and Ed Knaggs who looked particularly strong at points during the season. Greg Pick isn’t someone I would sign if I was building a side but he works in Koulikov’s systems. Either way, that’s a pretty good top 6 defenders to be heading into the season with.

Up front the additions of Salem and Leigh Jamieson to a strong Brit core and import forwards Ales Padelek and Darius Pliskauskas see there be some good balance in the forward lines. The question will be whether Padelek and Pliskauskas have the legs for the whole season but the reduced game load should help in that market.

The one other forward I’m interested to see progress over the season is Glenn Billing. After a productive season at MK, the 20 year old sees himself on a two-way deal with the Lightning so I am intrigued to see how he is used by Koulikov and how much time he sees, if any, at EIHL level.

Obviously the inconsistency of this past weekend will not be something that the Phantoms want to repeat but understandably this roster will easily contend for all the trophies this season. Good netminding, solid defence, solid attack; provided the Phantoms settle as a roster than there’s no reason that they won’t do a lot of damage. This won’t stop me saying they play unentertaining hockey if I don’t like how they play stylistically (something that copped me a lot of flak last season) but you can’t deny that Peterborough are in contention for all the silverware. Does a repeat of 2008/09’s success lie in the cards?

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