Phantoms defenceman, Tom Norton, is relishing the prospect of a late title challenge. He also speaks through the weekend just gone and his own recent form.
Slava Koulikov’s team have been on a great run of form of late and went into the weekend with a nine-match winning run. With Sheffield being on a five-match win streak and Swindon also challenging for the league title, the test looked as though it would be a very tough one for the Phantoms.
But a 4-1 win in Sheffield was followed up by a dramatic 4-3 overtime win over Swindon, extending the winning run to an impressive eleven games. Norton is pleased with the form, especially given we’re now into the business end of the season.
“We’re really pleased we’ve hit a good run of form at this point in the season when it’s all about being mentally strong and grinding out the results. Teams are trying to get on a good run of form to bring it into the playoffs.” Norton said.
Three weeks ago, the Phantoms had been written off as title challengers, with most seeing it as a two-horse race between Swindon and Telford, but the Phantoms have dragged themselves to within touching distance of the top two, and Norton thinks a title challenge is well and truly on for the Phantoms.
“Definitely! We have just got to keep level headed and keep playing our game and see where we end up. But it’s really exciting to be involved in the title battle and everyone is up for the challenge.” Said the Phantoms #2.
Sheffield had been building a good run of form themselves in recent weeks and put nine goals past Hull in Hull’s rink last Sunday. Phantoms knew it wouldn’t be an easy game, but it was one they controlled from start to finish.
Norton commented: “It was a pretty perfect away team performance. We controlled the game from start to finish, it’s never an easy place to go and play so I was really proud of the team and how we all stuck to the game plan.”
The only slight disappointment from Sunday night’s win was the fact Swindon battled back for a point by taking the game into overtime, but Norton believes the bonus point he and his teammates earned could be huge for the rest of the season.
“Our games against Swindon are always close and a really good battle, it’s the type of games you love being involved in. The extra point was nice and gave us another four-point weekend, which is huge for our title push.” Norton said.
Norton is top of the goalscoring charts amongst defencemen in the league, with 17 goals for the season. He netted another two on Sunday and is pleased he is being able to contribute at both ends of the ice.
“It is really enjoyable, it’s always nice to contribute on the score sheet. But I would always take the two points in the league over personal points.” Norton said.
After Norton’s opener and Padelek’s go ahead goal, it looked unlikely that the Phantoms would be able to top what they’d already produced. But in overtime, Martins Susters won a board battle, Glenn Billing took over and found Norton. Then, the next play was right out of the top draw… Norton fed the puck to Susters out in front and he pulled a spin-o-drama on Renny Marr before lifting the puck over him and into the back of the net.
Norton said the following about what will go down as one of the goals of the season: “It was a fantastic finish; it all happened rather quick. I think Martins was strong in the corner won a battle and got the puck to Glenny, who did great along the boards and hit me up top. Martins drove the net from the corner and was wide open, and I guess everyone saw the finish!”
The noise in the rink stepped up a notch in the closing minutes and into overtime, which helped get the Phantoms over the line. Norton was keen to acknowledge the impact of the noise in the closing minutes of the game.
Norton said: “It’s a massive help! Our fans have been great and really bringing the noise and being that 6th man. So, a massive thanks to them!”
Next week is another big weekend of NIHL National action as the Phantoms face two road trips in as many days. On Saturday they travel to Telford to take on the league leaders, before heading to Bracknell to face the Bees on Sunday.
“They are two massive games! Telford need the points for the title and Bracknell need them to make the playoffs. It’s going to be an exciting weekend and big points for us to pick up on the road.” Norton said.
If you’d like to travel to either game on the players bus, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to book your seats!
If you can’t make it to the game, full match updates from both games will be on our Twitter account, @GoPhantoms.