SWINDON Wildcats took control of their NIHL South One play-off semi-final against Peterborough Phantoms when they extended their winning run to an eighth match in tonight’s first leg.

Aaron Nell’s side struck twice in each of the first two periods at the Link Centre, with Peterborough only able to muster a solitary response in that time.

Although the Phantoms were able to edge the final period 1-0, Swindon will still carry a two-goal cushion into tomorrow’s second leg at Planet Ice where another solid showing will see them into the regional final and a guaranteed place at next month’s national play-off final weekend in Coventry.

The high-stakes nature of the contest was evident inside the opening minute as a fight very nearly unfolded before either side had mustered a shot as Cats player-coach Nell and Phantoms man Will Weldon got up close and personal.

Swindon did eventually muster the first shot of the night when it eventually did arrive three minutes in as Floyd Taylor saw an effort batted away by keeper Euan King.

That set the tone for the evening and it was little surprise that is was the hosts who broke the deadlock in the seventh minute, with Edgars Bebris catching the puck in the Phantoms third before picking out Jordan Kelsall in front of goal to fire home.

Swindon’s lead lasted less than 90 seconds, however, as Ales Padelek levelled the scores for the Phantoms, darting forward while exchanging passes with Glenn Billing before leaving home keeper Renny Marr little chance with his close-range finish.

The Cats got their noses back in front in the 13th minute when Phil Hill flicked the puck inside to Bebris and he beat King at his near post with a powerful strike.

Swindon had chances to pull further clear before the first buzzer sounded as Bebris and Nell were denied by the Peterborough stopper but they had to settle for a one-goal cushion as they headed to the changing rooms.

The hosts were swiftly back on the front foot after the restart and took just five minutes to get their third goal, with Max Birbraer lashing home at the back post after Nell had spread the puck across the face of the Phantoms goal.

That was the first of two Swindon goals in quick succession, with Nell the provider again as he stung the palms of keeper King and as the puck dropped loose, Sam Bullas was on hand to force it over the line.

After a dominant spell, the Cats suddenly found themselves on the back foot for a sustained period as Peterborough lay siege to the home goal in an effort to get back into the contest.

Padelek and then Nathan Salem both went close but Marr stayed strong to keep them at bat and maintain the lead at three as the buzzer sounded.

Peterborough continued to hold the momentum as the final period got under way and were able to reduce the deficit in the opening skirmishes when Salem lashed home after a flurry in front of the Cats goal.

A powerplay following a penalty for Phantoms man Ed Knaggs swung the pendulum back Swindon’s way and Nell thought he had netted a fifth goal for his side on the night, only for the effort to be chalked off after a lengthy discussion between the officials.

The Cats continued to push as the contest drew to a close but Peterborough kept them at bay with a resolute performance at the back, although coach Nell and his side will be more than content with a two-goal cushion when the two teams resume battle tomorrow.