Koulikov thanks Phantoms fans for creating ‘tremendous atmosphere’

The Phantoms celebrate winning the Autumn Cup. Picture: Tom Scott
The Phantoms celebrate winning the Autumn Cup. Picture: Tom Scott
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Head coach Slava Koulikov described Peterborough Phantoms’ trophy-winning success last night (December 14) as an ‘unbelievable feeling’.

The city team lifted the NIHL Autumn Cup on a famous night at Planet Ice after securing a 6-5 aggregate triumph against the gutsy Sheffield Steeldogs.

Phantoms Man of the Match Jordan Marr celebrates in front  of the fans. Picture: Tom Scott

Phantoms Man of the Match Jordan Marr celebrates in front of the fans. Picture: Tom Scott

The two teams were deadlocked at 2-2 after the first leg in South Yorkshire last weekend, but Phantoms prevailed 4-3 in the return with player-coach Tom Norton blasting in a third-period winner.

It’s a first trophy win for the club since their English Premier League play-offs victory in 2015.

“I’m really pleased for every player in our locker room, all of my coaching staff, two great owners who always support me and my philosophy, and of course the fans who did exactly what we asked of them by turning out in big numbers and giving us a tremendous atmosphere,” said Koulikov.

“I’m over the moon to win in front of those supporters and none of us will forget those celebrations for a long time. It’s an unbelievable feeling to win a trophy in front of our fans.

Tom Norton celebrates scoring the eventual game winner. Picture: Tom Scott

Tom Norton celebrates scoring the eventual game winner. Picture: Tom Scott

“Winning the play-offs in Coventry always brings a lot of euphoria as it is the final trophy of the season, but lifting this cup is still very special for us.

“There were six very good teams involved in this competition and we’ve come through 10 games – including a very tough semi-final and final – to win it.

“It’s been a great start to the season and to have a trophy to show for it is fantastic.

“We have a lot of hard work and many big games ahead and we’ll be doing all we can to challenge for more silverware.

“But I’m not going to lie . . . we’re all a bit drained after so many games in such a short space of time!”

Phantoms were unable to turn their dominance into a lead in the first period last night before the sides traded six goals in the second session.

The decisive blow eventually arrived at 48.10 as Norton unleashed a bullet from the blue-line.

“All the guys deserve huge credit for the way they have stuck together, won hockey games and built up momentum this season,” added Koulikov.

“Things don’t always go your way in big games, but we continually showed character to battle through and eventually come out on top.

“We came from two goals behind in the first leg in Sheffield and we responded every time we conceded in the second leg as well.

“We dominated the first period without managing to get the goals we deserved and it then became a very open game in the second period . . . a bit too open for my liking if I’m being honest.

“We knew it would go down to the wire as there has never been more than one goal between ourselves and Sheffield in our games this season and thankfully it was us who managed to get that important goal in the final period.”

Phantoms face two crucial NIHL Division One South games this weekend as they bid to cement their position at the top of the league standings.

They go to reigning champions Basingstoke tonight (December 15, 6.30pm) before hosting Milton Keynes Thunder tomorrow (December 16, 5.30pm) at Planet Ice.

Those games complete a hectic spell of eight fixtures in just 16 days but Phantoms then receive a welcome breather until December 29.