As we celebrate the start of the new year, we thought we’d take a look back at what happened in the past 12 months for the DALROD sponsored Peterborough Phantoms.
January started with the Phantoms enjoying a 4 point opening weekend with a 4-0 victory over the Bracknell Bees followed by a 5-4 victory in Telford at the runaway league leaders. The weekend was the last in a Phantoms shirt for fans favourite Alan Lack, who announced he was leaving due to work commitments back down South. The Phantoms were also to lose D-Man Edgars Apelis who was released during the opening week of the New Year, as Head Coach Slava Koulikov decided he needed to make changes in the Phantoms push for the Play-Offs.
Whilst Phantoms lost their only League game the following weekend in Basingstoke (5-4), they then faced 3 Cup games. On the Sunday they lost at home to the Solway Sharks after a late fightback saw the Sharks claim a 5-4 victory. The Phantoms fans were given some good news, with the signing of Lithuanian Forward Donatas Kumeliauskas, who joined the club from HK Almaty in the Kazakhstan league.
The mid-January weekend away saw the Phantoms gain revenge on the Solway Sharks up in Dumfries with a 4-2 victory before the club succumbed to it’s second cup defeat against NIHL teams with an 8-2 defeat in Blackburn against the Hawks.
The clubs last 3 league games of the month saw them return to form and push up to 4th in the league. They saw off the Bracknell Bees 5-3, before handing out a lesson in clinical finishing in Swindon, coming away with a 5-1 victory. They finished the month by announcing the signing of Greg Blais as netminder cover and signing Robbie Ferrara to a full time Phantoms contract from the Peterborough Phantoms. On the last day of the month they once again defeated the table topping Telford Tigers, this time by a score of 3-2 at home.
February saw the Phantoms struggle for wins as they looked to stay in the top 4 of the EPL in the battle for play-off advantage.
They started the month as they had finished January, with a victory this time on the road at Bracknell, where the team ran out 4-1 victors.
After losing out on Penalty Shots in Guildford the following week 5-4, they returned to Bretton to put 6 past the Sheffield Steeldogs in an eventual 6-2 victory.
The victory over Sheffield was to be the last points for the club in February as they finished the month with 4 straight defeats. Away at the Milton Keynes Lightning they fell to a 5-3 loss, followed by a 5-2 home defeat to Basingstoke Bison and a 5-2 home defeat at the hands of the Swindon Wildcats. The month ended with Phantoms in 5th spot in the league and a 5-4 home loss to Telford, a victory that handed the Tigers the League Championship.
March, and the month that would signal the end of the League campaign and the Play-Off Quarter finals. By the end of the month the 4 teams that would battle for the Play-Off trophy at Coventry in April would be known.
The month started with the Phantoms bouncing back with a 5-3 roadwin in Manchester to end their losing streak. After a 6-4 loss in Telford they set out to entertain their fans with 3 straight home victories.
First up was a Penalty Shootout victory over Manchester Phoenix. Two home games the following week saw a 4-3 Overtime win over the Sheffield Steeldogs and a 5-4 victory over the Guildford Flames to cement 4th place in the EPL and what looked to be a play-off spot against the Swindon Wildcats.
The final weekend of League action saw the Phantoms travel to Wiltshire to face the Wildcats in the warm-up for the play-off clash, and it was the homeside who took a 6-2 victory. The final League game of the season saw the Phantoms defeat local rivals the Milton Keynes Lightning 4-1 to end the season in 4th spot.
The run-up to the Play-Off quarter finals saw Phantoms Head Coach Slava Koulikov named as the Ice Hockey Journalists Coach of the Year. Phantoms Luke Ferrara and Tom Norton were also named in the Great Britain Prospects Squad.
The games against Swindon in the Play-Offs saw the Phantoms travel to Swindon on the Saturday. Having lost 6-2 at the same venue the previous week, the Phantoms dug deep and came away with a 4-3 victory. The return leg the next night saw a packed Planet Ice Arena cheer the Phantoms on to a 2-1 victory to qualify for the Finals weekend with an aggregate 6-4 victory.
The Play-Off Semi-Finals saw the Phantoms face the League Champion winning Telford Tigers in the first game of the weekend.
Phantoms took an early lead when Koulikov netted after just 1.56 of the game. Birbraer equalised on 11 minutes for the Tigers, but a late Luke Ferrara goal with 2 seconds of the opening period remaining saw the Phantoms take a 2-1 lead into the break.
Phantoms lost Eddie Bebris on a High Stick call 42 seconds into the middle period, but battled through and took a 3-1 lead midway through the game thanks to Darius Pliskauskas.
Tigers drew a goal back early in the final period thanks to Ricky Plant, but a second Darius Pliskauskas goal on 57 minutes ensured it was the Phantoms who would battle for the Play-Off trophy, thanks to a 4-2 victory.
The Phantoms were crowned EPL Playoff Champions following an epic 5-2 win over Manchester Phoenix.
The Phantoms controlled the game from the opening face-off and led 3-0 after just 14 minutes but weathered a fine fightback to take their first playoff title since 2009. Goals from Milan Baranyk (2) and Scott Robson saw the Phantoms dominate the opening 20 minutes.
James Archer and Frantisek Bakrlik scored to make it 3-2 at the end of the second but Marc Levers’ powerplay goal with seven minutes to go – and James Ferrara’s late effort – ensured there would be no fairytale ending for Tony Hand MBE in his 34th and final season as a player.
No sooner were the play-offs over, the team building for the next season were soon underway. Previous co-owners Rob & Sue Housden retired from the club and Dave & Jo Lane took over as sole owners of the team.
Whilst Luke Ferrara left the club to join the Elite League, and Mason Webster decided it was time for a change of scenery, the Phantoms secured the signatures of Head Coach Slava Koulikov, club Captain James Ferrara, Eddie Bebris and influential netminder Janis Auzins all by the end of the month.
May saw the Phantoms announce two new faces for the upcoming season. Canadian born, but British trained, Craig Scott joined the club from the Stonewall Flyers. Craig was a junior player with the Phantoms rivals Milton Keynes, whilst his dad was a player for the club. The Phantoms also secured the signature of gritty forward Lloyd Gibson who joined from the Sheffield Steeldogs.
Tom Norton, Will Weldon, Milan Baranyk, Scott Robson, Darius Pliskauskas and Jason Buckman all re-signed for the team for the 2015/16 season, and youngster Martins Susters was handed his first full senior contract with the club.
The Summer signings continued as the Phantoms looked to retain as many of the Play-Off Championship winning team as possible.
Netminder Dan Lane re-signed whilst Adam Long was awarded his first Senior contract with the club. Both signed on 2-way contracts with the Peterborough Islanders as the Phantoms cemented stronger ties with the NIHL club.
The tie-in also saw Brad Moore, James White and Connor Stokes sign as Development squad players.
Greg Pick and Cam McGiffin re-signed for another season with the Phantoms, whilst Ales Padelek joined the club as the final import after Donatas Kumeliauskas left to continue his career in Berlin.
The big news in July was the addition of a 10th team in the EPL. In a crazy few days the Hull Stingrays folded, the Manchester Storm returned from their hiatus to join the Elite League and the Hull Pirates were formed and admitted into the EPL.
August saw the Phantoms start their preparations for the new season. The club teamed up with the RAF for a two day pre-season fitness and planning camp at RAF Wittering. The camp saw PT instructors put the players through their paces, as well as planning and goal setting sessions run by Head Coach Slava Koulikov and Player Development Coach Lee Elias.
The month ended with two pre-season games. The Phantoms drew 3-3 with the Solway Sharks, with the Phantoms resting all of their imports for the 2nd and 3rd periods of the game. The next night they took on the Elite League new boys the Manchester Storm, suffering a 7-3 loss, but winning the post-game penalty shootout.
Hockey season started again in September. The pre-season Ashes challenge games against the Milton Keynes Lightning saw the Phantoms claim a 9-7 victory over the two games. a 4-4 draw in Milton Keynes was followed up with a 5-3 home win and the first silverware of the season.
The League campaign started with a 4 point weekend as the Phantoms defeated the Wildcats by 6-3 in Swindon and the next night defeated the Basingstoke Bison 5-3 at home.
Phantoms were defeated 3-2 in Guildford the following week and then lost in Overtime to the Milton Keynes Lightning (4-3) the next night, but still found themselves in the top 3.
The month ended with the Phantoms shutting out the Bees 3-0 at home followed by a 2-0 road victory in Telford.
The Milton Keynes Lightning again beat the Phantoms in Overtime (4-3) at the start of the month before the Phantoms set about a 4 game win streak. They saw off the Wildcats 6-1 at home, before defeating the Phoenix at their temporary Deeside home 5-2. Their 2-1 penalty shootout victory over the Basingstoke Bison the following week went Viral after the Phantoms Darius Pliskauskas equalised the game on 59.59. Phantoms then went to Sheffield and defeated the new look Steeldogs 6-4.
Phantoms lost 6-4 in Telford before defeating the Manchester Phoenix 8-3 in Bretton. The first major shock of the season came the following night when the club lost 2-1 on Penalty Shots to the leagues basement team, the Hull Pirates.
During October Head Coach Slava Kouliov was appointed as Assistant Coach to the Great Britain Under 20’s for the forthcoming IIHF World Championships in Megeve in France. Cam McGiffin was also announced as apart of the GB Under 20’s squad for the World Championships.
November saw the Phantoms in a three way fight for the top spot in the EPL alongside the Milton Keynes Lightning and Basingstoke Bison. Whilst Lightning help top spot at the start of the month they had also played more games than the Phantoms and Bison, and by the end of the month it was the Phantoms who would claim the #1 spot.
Phantoms started the month with a 5-1 home victory over the Guildford Flames. A 3-2 overtime defeat in Telford was followed up by the Phantoms biggest victory of the year when they gained revenge over the Hull Pirates with an 11-0 home victory.
A 6-4 victory over the Steeldogs in Peterborough was followed up with a further Overtime defeat, this time 3-2 in Manchester. Two consecutive games against the Bees saw a Thursday night overtime victory in Bracknell and then a 5-2 home victory in Peterborough.
The Phantoms Coaching Staff were bolstered during the month when Alex Kulikov re-joined the club to bring his extensive coaching knowledge to assist Slava and Lee.
After an impressive year, that has seen the Phantoms go from strength to strength we come to the final month of 2015.
December saw Slava and Cam McGiffin help Great Britain Under 20’s to a Bronze medal at the IIHF World Championships in Megeve. The club finished the year in 2nd spot, by 1 point, but with games in hand over the Basingstoke Bison.
The month saw 5 Phantoms victories before suffering a pointless weekend over Christmas to end the year.
Victories in Guildford (7-4), Basingstoke (3-2) and Manchester (3-2 OT) were interspersed with home defeat to Swindon (1-0), before victories over Hull (4-0) and Guildford (6-2).
The Christmas defeats both came at the hands of the Milton Keynes Lightning, and both by a scoreline of 4-2.
So, what a 12 months we have seen. We started mid-table and hoping for a good Play-Off run. We won our first silverware since 2009 with the EPL Play-Offs in April and then set about retaining the majority of the squad to form the formidable force we are proving to be so far this season.
We are only half way through the current season, and have a tough few months ahead as 9 other teams look to knock us off the top part of the league table and claim the scalp of the Phantoms.
Here’s to an exciting 2016 !