Peterborough Phantoms coach Slava Koulikov believes the brilliance of netminder Janis Auzins can now almost be taken for granted.
The Latvian shot-stopper has just celebrated back-to-back shut-outs as the city team completed a second four-point weekend of the English Premier League season.
Auzins was a hero of the play-off triumph of last season with a catalogue of stunning performances and he has started the new campaign in equally formidable form.
He successfully kept out 63 shots across two nights – 22 in a 3-0 home success over Bracknell last Saturday and 41 as they followed up with a 2-0 triumph at reigning champions Telford the following evening.
They were a pair of performances which highlighted Koulikov’s billing of the 24 year-old as the finest netminder at this level.
Koulikov said: “Janis has been a fantastic player for the club from day one.
“I have said many times that he is the best goalie in the league and he frequently shows why.
“The netminder is 50 per cent of the team as far as I’m concerned.
“It is such an important position and that is why you have to find the best possible player.
“We could not have done any better than when we brought Janis in and it was fantastic to be able to keep hold of him after the success of last season.
“It has got to the point now where we expect Janis to be great in every game and that is normally the case.
“We shut out Bracknell, who are the highest scorers in the league so far, and then did the same to a Telford side who have been out-shooting their opponents two-to-one in most games.
“To do that against teams so stacked with offensive talent is really pleasing and Janis’ presence gives so much confidence to the other guys.”
Phantoms’ fine start to the campaign has carried them level with early-season leaders Guildford.
“The fact that the Flames have scored one more goal so far is all that keeps Koulikov’s men off the top of the table.
Phantoms are back in action this weekend when they have a derby date at Milton Keynes tomorrow (October 3, 7pm).
They will be eager to avenge a home loss at the hands of the Lightning in overtime recently. Swindon are the visitors to Planet Ice on Sunday (October 4, 5.30pm).
Koulikov added: “I can only say about this weekend what I say about every weekend - that we have two tough games and will need to be at our best to pick up points.
“I’m very happy with the way we have started the season.
“Two four-point weekends out of three is very pleasing and we are also playing some pretty decent hockey.
“The guys are working very hard for each other and standing tall.”