SEASON PREVIEW: Slava believes he has the hottest shots in the league

Phantoms coach Slava Koulikov.
Phantoms coach Slava Koulikov.
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Slava Koulikov is convinced Phantoms can be the hottest shots in the National Ice Hockey League (NIHL) Division One South - and he is hopeful they can keep the puck out of their own net as well.

The city side have been involved in a high-scoring pre-season campaign in which they won three of four games against sides expected to challenge for title success.

New Phantoms recruit Leigh Jamieson.

New Phantoms recruit Leigh Jamieson.

Those warm-up outings featured 16 goals from Koulikov’s men - a return which impressed him as new forward lines gelled quickly - but they leaked 17 at the other end - and it’s safe to say the boss was not so enamoured with that stat!

“We have a really strong forward core,” said Koulikov. “My two import guys are franchise players who always put up big numbers, and the same goes for Nathan Salem, who we are very pleased to have signed after he did very well in the old English Premier League in the last few years.

“I definitely think the scoring power is there. It’s about finding goals at key moments in games and we are in a good position as we won’t be a team that relies on one guy.

“We have the ability to score from throughout the team - and I include D-men in that.

“The fact we’re averaging four goals per game is pleasing - especially as we drew a blank in our first pre-season fixture.

“We obviously can’t continue to concede the number of goals we have so far. Needing to score four or five goals to win a game puts a lot of pressure on the forwards and that’s something we’ll look to address.

“The scorelines doesn’t surprise me though. I do expect them to rise this season and I’m pretty sure fans will be happy with the entertainment level. I’m not sure myself and the other coaches will enjoy it quite as much!”

Koulikov is already happy with the contributions of his four new signings for 2017/18.

Salem has struck three times in pre-season while fellow forward Leigh Jamieson is a classy addition after helping Milton Keynes to honours in the EPL last season.

Defenceman Ed Knaggs and forward Glenn Billing, who are on two-way deals from MK, also look useful recruits.

“The new guys are already giving us everything I was hoping they would,” added Koulikov.

“We know Nathan is not afraid to go to the dirty areas of the rink and get stuck in, but he is also blessed with a lot of skill and has been finding the net.

“Jaimo is a great guy on and off the ice, with a great background and a huge amount of experience. He is still a very capable player and will be a great asset to us.

“Glenn has come in in top shape and ‘Knaggsy’ is already showing that he is a defenceman with a good first pass and a lot of offensive skill.

“It was also great to be able to retain so many players. They are all here for the right reasons and to try to win trophies, which is what we all want to do.”

That mission begins on Saturday night when Phantoms host Bracknell at Planet Ice (September 16, 7pm). A National Cup, Group B trip to Hull follows on Sunday (September 17 5.30pm).