The Manchester Storm rolled into town after a shoot-out victory against the Nottingham Panthers on Saturday evening with members of the Altrincham Aces boosting their ranks and our own Martins Susters dressing for the Elite League side and getting a number of shifts throughout the game.
There were also some familiar faces on the Storm’s bench, including former Phantom Matty Davies, GB international David Phillips, and Head Coach Omar Pacha, who had his Hull Stingrays side defeated here in Peterborough in a corresponding pre-season fixture prior to the start of last season.
Whereas the Phantoms had prevailed over the Stingrays a year ago it would prove to be a different story against the re-formed Manchester Storm who took the honours on the evening with a display of speed, skill and strength.
The game started positively for the Phantoms in what was clearly a much more intensive challenge than the Solway game on Saturday evening. Despite the fact that the Storm were playing a fast game with precision passing and were putting the Phantoms under pressure early on, James Ferrara went close, foiled by netminder Kalemba after 4 20.
Ales Padelek picked up a cross checking penalty moments later, almost certainly aggrieved that a similar call on him wasn’t made by the officials. The resulting Storm powerplay severely tested the Phantoms’ resolve, with Cam McGiffin needing to leave the ice after his helmet was knocked off in a scrum on the boards and Scott Robson losing his stick, yet this penalty was killed.
Nevertheless, the game wasn’t to remain goalless for too much longer. With 8 14 left of the first period Matt Paton picked up a pass from Mike Folkes and fired a bullet over Auzins’ blocker for the first goal of the evening.
The Storm were imposing themselves on the game, and with neither side shying away from the physical stuff we saw the Storm’s British D man Chilcott flatten Will Weldon with a good strong check, before Darius Pliskauskas levelled the scoring with an absolute belter, skating into the offensive zone on the right wing before lashing a tracer over Kalemba’s right shoulder to make the score 1-1 at the end of the first period.
Manchester regained the lead with a shorthanded marker after 1 05 of the second period. Paton had taken two minutes for boarding, but Davies and Scarsella broke with speed, outnumbered the Phantoms defence, leaving the American forward to finish past Auzins.
This would be the first of five goals for the Davies-Scarsella-Sisca line who impressed all evening, the Phantoms ultimately finding it difficult to deal with their Elite League counterparts, yet at this stage of the game the home side were giving a good account of themselves. Only some 90 seconds after Scarsella had given Manchester the lead Ales Padelek threatened the Storm’s goal, won the puck behind the net, and fed Will Weldon, who seemed to have plenty of time to lift the puck into the goal to level the scores once again.
Midway through the second period Manchester replaced Kalemba in goal with Steve Wilcock, and Mathew Sisca gave the Storm their third lead of the evening on 9 29, tucking the puck into an empty goal with Davies and Scarsella providing the assists, and extended the lead further from a wraparound that beat Auzins, making the score 2-4 at the end of the second frame.
With only 18 seconds of the final period gone Phantoms scored what would be their third and final strike of the evening, Marc Levers catching the Manchester defence on the hop as he picked up an incisive cross goal pass from Milan Baranyk from the left and tapped the puck low into the net, just inside the post.
With 41 minutes gone their wasn’t too much between the teams, but in the final twenty minutes Manchester pushed ahead again, as Scarsella scored his second after 3 14 of the period, punishing a big rebound off Auzins’ pads, and his hat-trick goal to make the score 3-6 after 12 27, with David Phillips scoring the final goal of the evening with a boomer from the blue line with four and a half minutes to go.
The evening finished with an exhibition penalty shoot-out, which saw Baranyk and Padelek score for the Phantoms and Janis Auzins make stops at the other end, including one from Matty Davies which hit Auzins mask, which the netminder took exception to.
This proved to be an excellent workout for the Phantoms against some top opposition, the like of whom they are unlikely to face too frequently. In the first two periods particularly the Phantoms remained competitive, though the game got away from them at the end.
MoM: Darius Pliskauskas for the Phantoms, and David Phillips for Manchester.
At the end of the first weeks training and the first round of pre-season games there have been lots of positives which can only be built on in the next couple of weeks.
Next up – Milton Keynes Lightning in the annual Ashes series, and then the real stuff starts.