Phantoms keep on defying the odds in runners-up race

Luke Ferrara scored against Telford and Bracknell at the weekend. Photo: Alan Storer/Feral Marmot Films
Luke Ferrara scored against Telford and Bracknell at the weekend. Photo: Alan Storer/Feral Marmot Films
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Peterborough Phantoms chief Slava Koulikov has challenged his players to continue to defy the odds in the race for second place.

The city team have put together a four-game English Premier League winning streak despite having key defensive and offensive talents sidelined through long-term injuries.

Phantoms beat teams at opposite ends of the standings last weekend when claiming the scalp of champions elect Telford for the second time in a month before completing a clean sweep over basement boys Bracknell.

Those results left them in the thick of a four-way battle for runners-up spot and, in theory at least, an easier tie in the opening round of the play-offs at the end of the campaign.

They face another vital clash on Saturday night when travelling to second-placed Guildford (6pm) in the knowledge that victory at The Spectrum will see them leapfrog the Flames in the standings.

Koulikov said: “The guys are all happy to be winning hockey games and hopefully that can continue.

“The fact we are doing it short-staffed while having a star import in Darius Pliskauskas and one of our top Brit players James Hutchinson out injured makes it even more pleasing.

“The guys are giving their all and the challenge now is to maintain our form in all the remaining games to secure the highest league placing we can.

“There have been a few changes at Guildford since we last played them. It will be a tough game and probably an exciting one as well as they have been in good form lately to get into second in the table.”

Phantoms, who have lost 5-1 and 5-3 in their previous visits to Guildford this term, are back in home action on Sunday.

They entertain Sheffield Steeldogs at Planet Ice (5.30pm) and Koulikov admits his team will need to have their wits about them to avoid falling into the traps laid by arguably the most aggressive team in the EPL.

“We know what to expect from Sheffield,” continued Koulikov. “They have ways of making it difficult and we will be well prepared.

“We can’t allow ourselves to be affected by the distractions. Discipline and will to win the game will be key.”

Koulikov has strengthened his roster by handing Rob Ferrara a return.

The defenceman had been playing for the lower-level Islanders this term, but has now joined siblings James and Luke in the Phantoms ranks again.

The club have also snapped up netminder Greg Blais to provide back up to Janis Auzins. The 34 year-old has been with Elite League side Fife Flyers this season.