The DALROD sponsored Peterborough Phantoms are EPL Playoff Champions following an epic 5-2 win over Manchester Phoenix.
EPL Coach of the Year, Slava Koulikov’s side led 3-0 after 14 minutes but weathered a fine fightback to take their first playoff title since 2009.
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.
The game may have been a tight and tense affair towards its conclusion but there was no sign of nerves as the Phantoms took what was an unassailable lead early on in the game.
Early doors Bakrlik tested the excellent Janis Auzins twice before Tom Norton did likewise on Stephen Fone at the other end. On Peterborough’s next attack they took the lead.
Cam Mcgiffin combined with Edgars Bebris for Milan Baranyk to fire low after his initial shot had been saved by Stephen Fone.
And on 3:24 they doubled their advantage.
Ben Wood was sent to the bin for Elbows and on the powerplay Scott Robson made no mistake, to punish the Phoenix and silence their large travelling block of fans.
Phoenix looked rattled and almost conceded again in the eighth minute when they lost the puck in their own zone.
Five minutes later though Peterborough turned the screw further. Bebris was once again involved, shifting the puck to Baranyk who scored hos second after another rebound.
At 3-0 the last thing Manchester needed was to put themselves under pressure, but they did after Joe Graham was penalised for Hooking on 15:49.
Phantoms Marc Levers hit the post and then found himself sitting a 2 minute penalty for High Sticks. Phoenix gained a short powerplay as the penalties overlapped and got back into the game as a result.
Numbers in front of goal paid dividends with Hand and Johan Burlin linking for former Phantoms James Archer to make it 3-1 on 18:15.
Compared to the first 20 minutes, the second period was somewhat quiet.
Phoenix’ Adam Walker tested his luck in the 26th minute and then his side passed up a couple of powerplay opportunities. Whenever the Phoenix got close to the Phantoms goal Auzins and his D were superb in beraking down the Phoenix attacks.
Peterborough killed a Luke Ferrara penalty on 34:33 but on 37:59 Phoenix made it a one-goal game. With the Phantoms changing on the fly, Joe Graham saw the ice open up and he duly hit a fantastic two line pass to Bakrlik. The forward took it in stride and slammed home from the left.
A one goal lead going onto the final period of the season lined up an intense final 20 minutes.
Phoenix’ Burlin was given two minutes for Holding on 46:55 – subsequently killed – and then Phantoms Donatas Kumeliauskas had his shot stone walled by Fone.
But Manchester ran into penalty trouble with both Jack Watkins and Bakrlik sent to the box for High Sticks and Hooking respectively.
Ultimately, it cost them. With a two man advantage Peterborough loaded up the box and Marc Levers scored following a huge scramble to make it a two-goal game.
And with just 39 seconds of the game remaining Phantoms Captain James Ferrara slammed the puck home to send the Phantoms and their supporters into raptures.
Man of the Match went to Tony Hand for the Phoenix and Janis Auzins for the Phantoms.