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Peterborough Phantoms picked up a dramatic victory in their chase for NIHL Division One South honours last night (February 9).
Import ace Ales Padelek tucked away a sudden-death effort to earn the city men a 3-2 triumph at title rivals Basingstoke following penalties.
The veteran Czech forward had twice put Phantoms ahead in Hampshire only to see both of those efforts cancelled out by the hosts, but he eventually settled the issue in the shoot-out.
Both sides scored only one of their opening three penalties (Martins Susters finding the net for Phantoms and Adam Harding obliging for Basingstoke) before the first five attempts in sudden-death (three from Bison and two from Phantoms) were unsuccessful.
But Padelek showed how it is done by firing past Basingstoke netminder Alex Mettam to secure a victory which delighted head coach Slava Koulikov.
He said: “We’re really happy to come away from the rink of one of our rivals for the title with the two points.
“We’re into the final third of the season and this was one of the biggest games we have left.
“It felt like a play-off game with both teams playing really hard and the guys stood tall to come away with the win despite not everything going our way.”
Phantoms import Petr Stepanek was twice denied by smart Mettam saves during a blank opening period and the same pattern continued when he was thwarted again early in the second session.
Stepanek also laid on an excellent opportunity for McEwen which drew another fine stop, but Padelek eventually found a way to beat the Bison netminder when breaking the deadlock with a shot over the shoulder of Mettam at 32.21.
But that advantage was controversially wiped out in the closing stages of the middle stanza as Russ Cowley levelled for Bison – a goal given by referee Blaine Evans after play was initially allowed to continue and despite the goal judge not putting on the light.
Phantoms hit the front again early in the final session as Padelek was left all alone to tuck away a stretch pass from defenceman Callum Buglass at 43.22 and netminder Jordan Marr pulled off a series of fine stops to keep them ahead.
But he couldn’t prevent Cowley putting away a rebound with 60 seconds to go to draw the hosts level a second time after they had pulled Mettam in favour of an extra skater.
Padelek and Billing spurned the best opportunities for Phantoms in five breathless minutes of overtime before they eventually prevailed on penalties.
It meant captain James Ferrara was able to celebrate success in his 600th appearance in Phantoms colours but fellow forward James White, missed out a milestone of his own due to injury.
He had been due to make his 200th appearance for the club but will have to wait to reach that milestone.
White is also likely to be missing tonight (February 10) when Phantoms host table-toppers Swindon at Planet Ice in another crunch clash (5.30pm).
The city side remain third in the standings and sit three points behind the pacesetting Wildcats, but they boast two games in hand.
“We’re all looking forward to it,” added Koulikov. “If we are able to beat Swindon we will be right back in the title race.
“But we are up against a very good team whose only hope of a trophy in the regular season is the league title so we know they are going to put everything on the line.”
38.23 Cowley (PP) ass: Jones/Klejna
59.00 Cowley ass: Jones/Harding
32.21 Padelek ass: Billing/J. Ferrara
43.42 Padelek ass: Buglass
BASINGSTOKE – Adam Jones
PHANTOMS – Ales Padelek