Koulikov going ‘home’ . . . but it’s nothing special

Milan Baranyk picked up a knock last weekend.
Milan Baranyk picked up a knock last weekend.
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Slava Koulikov insists there will be no room for sentiment when he leads Phantoms into battle in his home town this weekend.

The city men make a first trip to Humberside to take on English Premier League newcomers Hull Pirates on Sunday (5.30pm).

Not only is the game on Koulikov’s doorstep, he also spent much of his playing career with previous teams to operate in the city – Kingston Hawks, Hull Thunder and Hull Stingrays.

But he insists it will be given no extra significance because of those associations.

“It is not a special game for me at all,” insisted Koulikov. “But it is a huge game because Hull have really started improving lately.

“They picked up their first win in overtime in Manchester recently and also got a point against Guildford last weekend in a game that went all the way to penalties.

“They probably lack the depth of quality in their top Brits, but they are young team with a lot of desire and spirit.

“I certainly don’t see it being an easy game, but it is one we want to win.”

The weekend begins with a Saturday home fixture as Phantoms welcome Manchester to Planet Ice (7pm) in a repeat of the play-off final of last season.

Koulikov’s men already boast a 5-2 road success over the Phoenix this term and will aim to follow up on home ice.

Phantoms are assessing the fitness of import forward Milan Baranyk who was helped from the ice in the closing stages of the Telford clash.

The Czech forward took a puck to the knee from close range and did not take part in practice on Tuesday night.

Koulikov meanwhile has slammed rival coach Greg Wood for failing to control his Sheffield Steeldogs players after a stormy clash last Saturday.

The city side triumphed 6-4 at IceSheffield – a success sealed by an empty-net goal from Darius Pliskauskas in the final second.

But Koulikov was angered by a needless hit on Marc Levers in the build-up to that clincher and also by the hosts’ antics after the buzzer.

The Steeldogs were renowned for their uncompromising approach under former coach Andre Payette, who departed in the summer, and they adopted similar tactics under new man Wood.

Koulikov said: “I was disappointed to see that Sheffield have not changed their style of play despite reading they said they were going to step away from the Payette era.

“I always try to praise opposition teams and coaches, but I’m disappointed they sent everyone on the ice to try to cause trouble after they had lost the game.

“I’m also disappointed Mr Wood cannot control his bench and that is probably why the handshakes were called off at the end.

“But I can only praise my guys for the way they came back from being behind and delivered for me again.”