All remaining games are cup finals says Koulikov

Darius Pliskauskas's effort is foiled by Martins Raitums. Picture: Tom Scott
Darius Pliskauskas's effort is foiled by Martins Raitums. Picture: Tom Scott
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Slava Koulikov has told his Phantoms charges to treat every one of their remaining games as a cup final.

Phantoms began a run of four successive games against the bottom four teams in the EPL table when seeing off Hull last Sunday – a 6-2 success which completed another four-point weekend after they toppled pacesetters Basingstoke the previous night.

Koulikov’s men now go to basement side Bracknell on Saturday (6pm), entertain Sheffield on Sunday (5.30pm) and then host Manchester in a rare midweek clash on Wednesday (7.45pm).

And he will take nothing for granted ahead of any of those upcoming outings.

Koulikov said: “We have already been taken to overtime once in Bracknell this season and that shows they cannot be under-estimated even though they are struggling.

“We’ve also had tough games home and away against Sheffield where we have had to fight all the way to the end for the result.

“And Manchester are another team more than capable of beating any side in this league.

“We have lost in overtime and also won on penalties at their rink, and they took us to deep in the third period at home a few weeks ago in a 7-6 game.

“So, just because we are playing teams towards the bottom of the table, it doesn’t mean we can afford to take them lightly.

“It might look like the fixtures are in our favour, but we have to treat every game like a final at this stage of the season.”

Koulikov also looked back to last weekend with satisfaction as his men extended a run of six wins and a highly controversial overtime loss in their last seven games.

He added: “It was a big game for both teams in Basingstoke and picking up two points down there again was a great achievement.

“We showed good character to twice come back from falling behind before getting the crucial goal late in the game.

“Basingstoke are not only the top team in the table, they are also the hardest-working team in the league.

“We knew it would be a tough 60 minutes, but we played very well as a team and fully deserved the win.

“It was essential to follow that up by beating Hull and the result was never in doubt after we scored twice in the opening five minutes.

“A four-point weekend is huge at this stage of the season and we have got two of them in the last while also picking up three points in the weekend in between.

“Any coach is going to be happy while his team are winning games and the key thing now is ensuring it continues.

“We’re in a higher position in the league than last season, we’re in the final of the EPL Cup and we have the play-offs to come, but you always have to be trying to improve in this sport.”

Forward Lloyd Gibson was rested again Hull after suffering back spasms.

He is likely to return this weekend along with teenage talent Martins Susters, who has been on international duty with Latvia.

Phantoms have confirmed the dates of their first EPL Cup final appearance since lifting the trophy eight years ago.

Just as on that occasion, they face Guildford in the showpiece.

The teams will meet twice in as many nights – Wednesday, March 2 in the opening leg in Surrey (8pm) and the following night at Planet Ice (8pm).