A case of so far so good says Phantoms coach

Corey McEwen  (left) celebrates with team-mates after opening the scoring against Invicta.
Corey McEwen (left) celebrates with team-mates after opening the scoring against Invicta.
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Head coach Slava Koulikov has declared himself delighted with Phantoms’ progress so far this season.

The city club completed the opening third of the NIHL Division One South campaign in third place and they are just three points behind table-toppers Swindon.

Phantoms also boast two matches in hand on a Wildcats side they travel to face in Wiltshire this Saturday, 6.15pm.

Koulikov’s men have played four fewer matches than second-placed Bracknell (who they trail by two points and entertain on Sunday, 5.30pm, to complete a mouth-watering weekend).

Phantoms have also reached the final of the NIHL Autumn Cup – with showpiece clashes against Sheffield coming up in December – and are through to the semi-finals of the NIHL South Cup.

“I’m very happy with the position we have put ourselves in,” said Koulikov. “We’ve only had one defeat in regulation time and one defeat in overtime in the league so far.

“It’s a good record and we still have games to catch up on Swindon and Bracknell. I’m like most coaches in that I would prefer to have points on the board, but we are in control of our destiny if we can continue to pick up results.

“It’s an exciting season in the sort of league that everyone wants to see. We have six teams who are all capable of beating each other on any night and that is great for the fans.

“It also means coaches have to do their homework and players have to execute the plans on the ice as any drop in performance will be costly.

“London are in sixth at the moment but they gave us as tough a game as we’ll have all season last Sunday.”

That 3-2 success against Raiders in Romford completed a four-point weekend for Phantoms following a 4-0 victory against rock-bottom Invicta the previous evening.

Phantoms now face a daunting spell of eight fixtures in 15 days as they bid to maintain their excellent league position while also lifting the NIHL Autumn Cup.

“The games are definitely mounting up,” added Koulikov. “We are playing eight times in 16 nights which is like an NHL schedule!

“Our approach won’t change, though. We will concentrate on one fixture at a time as we always do.

“We have to manage the players properly and it is important they maintain their bodies during such a busy spell.

They have to be disciplined in their recovery and preparations, and also show discipline on the ice as we don’t want to spend time short-handed when having so many games in a short space of time.”