Slava forced to look overseas for Lack replacement

James White gets in a shot for Phantoms against Solway. Photo: Alan Storer/Feral Marmot Films

James White gets in a shot for Phantoms against Solway. Photo: Alan Storer/Feral Marmot Films

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Peterborough Phantoms player-coach Slava Koulikov admits drafting in an overseas star was the only way he could fill his offensive void.

Koulikov has snapped up Lithuanian international forward Donatas Kumeliasukas for the rest of the season.

The 27 year-old, who scored four goals in five games at the World Championships last summer, is expected to arrive in the city today (Thursday).

There is an outside chance he could feature in the club’s final two English Challenge Cup games this weekend as they travel to Solway on Saturday and Blackburn on Sunday, but he is more likely to make his debut in a rare midweek English Premier League home clash against bottom side Bracknell on Wednesday (21 January, 7.45pm).

And Koulikov felt he had no option other than to cast his net to the continent after the recent exit of fans’ favourite Alan Lack.

Koulikov admitted: “Lacky did such a great job for the team and there are not any British guys out there who we felt we could bring in to replace his ability and all-round game. I watched Donatas play in the World Championships and I have no doubt he can be one of the better forwards in the EPL.

“He is a very strong skater, is direct in the way he plays and has a good shot. I believe he will give us an extra edge.

“I’m looking forward to him coming in.”

Kumeliauskas will also provide a timely boost with his Lithuanian international team-mate Darius Pliskauskas ordered to rest until a fractured elbow has healed completely.

Pliskauskas has played through the injury for several weeks but it has not showed signs of healing and Koulikov won’t now select him until he is fully fit.

The arrival of Kumeliauskas also means Phantoms will now complete the season with an all-British defence following the release of Latvian blue-liner Edgars Apelis.

Tom Norton and the currently injured James Hutchinson, who has a knee ligament problem, are now the senior blue-liners at the club while Scott Robson – a recent World Championship gold medallist with Great Britain Under 20s – and Cam McGiffin continue to impress.

Jason Buckman and Greg Pick complete the defensive corps although captain James Ferrara is also capable of slotting in at the back.

Koulikov admitted: “I have a lot of faith in my British guys on D. Tom is one of the strongest defencemen in the league and ‘Hutch’ is a guy with lots of experience and knowledge. Scott is progressing all the time and I believe Cam can also offer a lot.

“We have six good guys in all and James can also do a job there if needed.

“It could possibly be classed as a gamble, but we are trying to achieve big things on a small budget and we have to make decisions like this.”