By Tom Pink
Where to start.
The big positive is that we continue to have an incredible netminder who does a consistent job of keeping us in games, sometimes, as in this case, when we have no real right to be in them.
Luke Clark is named player of the match for giving us a chance of doing something in the game, for keeping us within one goal of Peterborough. You’d be hard pushed though to make an argument for anyone else in black and white getting it.
It’s not even that there were bad individual performances necessarily. Yes there were mistakes, yes there were loose passes, yes there were poor decisions.
But it was our overall play that was lacking. We rarely looked like we were playing well as a team and as a cohesive unit.
At Peterborough I genuinely believed that at 3-0 down we still had a chance of winning the game, such was the quality of our play and the chances we were creating. 2-1 down on Saturday felt very, very different to that.
We start painfully slowly.
Peterborough are on us from the face-off. They dominate centre ice, are so alert and aggressive in the forecheck. We find it excruciatingly difficult to get out of the defensive zone, to string some passes together and gain a line.
Peterborough force Haringey to constantly dump and chase, in a foot race they’re happy to limit us to.
For the first 10 there’s barely a threat on the Phantoms’ net and all the traffic is going the other way.
We have snatched moments. Jaden Boolkah has a look from the blue line, Joe Willingham forces a pad save from the right. Conner Smith is put through and takes his shot early, but it’s held.
The pressure tells. Phantoms’ forward Nathan Pollard receives the puck on the left wing, beats one man and scores far side above the glove of Luke Clark to make it 1-0 with a short-handed goal.
It livens us up a bit. It’s far from a free-flowing game though; very bitty, very stop-start, very difficult to build momentum.
Conner, Joe Tearall, and Stephen Woodford all have half chances. Cass McCormack puts on the afterburners to chase down the puck but can only shoot across the face of goal.
Matt France and Woody have a couple of attempts to shovel it goalwards after the puck spills, before Matt’s forced into hitting the ice for a well-timed block at the other end moments later.
Joe Willingham was busy all night, and he puts a great shift in on the penalty kill.
With a couple left in the period, the Phantoms double their lead. Straight off the draw, Pollard heads to the slot and scores glove side for 2-0 with one second of another Peterborough power play left.
We respond though; it’s a bit of quality which sees Ryan McFarlane send it off the back boards and Conner collect at the near post to slap in for 2-1. A really well crafted move.
We could have equalised in the dying moments of the first but a scramble in front of net leads to nothing.
There’s more of the same in the second. Half chances a plenty. We end up outshooting Peterborough in the game but can never find the breakthrough.
Pete Toth and Luke manage to clear the puck from the crease between them, before Luke makes a great leg save after another Peterborough breakaway.
Tom Avery and Leo de Souza have attempts blocked by Ryan Bainborough in the Phantoms’ net.
Stuart Appleby and Woody work the puck behind the net and eventually find Matt France at the crease who can’t turn it goalwards.
Peterborough come again and we weather the storm a bit, with four or five shots on net in quick succession.
Leo heads to the net but collides with the keeper. He does very well to hold off his man after gaining the zone.
The best chance of the period comes via Marton Szasz whose backhander is saved with the puck trickling out exasperatingly close, with no one able to follow up.
We rally late in the third, but it’s too little too late and the game gets away from us.
Sam Roberts and Conner link up, Woody can’t generate enough power on a backhand, no one takes a chance on a spill after Marton shoots from the hash marks.
In truth we allowed the Phantoms to impose themselves on us, we allowed them to play the game they wanted. We let them manage the game and they hold onto their lead until the 60 minutes is up.
As culpable as those on the ice are for the loss, I don’t think we in the stands helped them much.
That was the flattest atmosphere I’ve experienced at the Palace. And yes, it’s hard to get up for the game if what you see on the ice is uninspiring, but I’d argue that’s perhaps when they need us the most.
The upshot of all of this is, it will take results out of our control and a herculean effort from Haringey to continue to be in contention on all fronts.
The Huskies will need to beat Guildford Phoenix home and away in the league, and at least once (and have a better goal’s scored aggregate overall) across the two cup semi-final games to even have a hope, with a head-to-head record that reads played eight, lost six, tied one (2021/22 cup final second leg), won one.
I can’t dress it up. It’s a really deflating loss in a season defining game. They’ve now got to pick themselves up for a huge cup semi-final next weekend.
What I cling to though, is the fact that we’ve now beaten them, that we’ve proven to ourselves and to everyone else that we can beat them.
What I cling to, is my belief that we actually will go and beat them. We’ve shown so many times this season what we’re about. We’re a different team to the last time we met, and a stronger team for it.
Let’s give ourselves the best possible chance on Saturday. It’s cup hockey, it’s Your Haringey Huskies. If we back them, they’ll back us.
1,000 voices call as one.
Let’s Go Huskies.