Padelek will be a key player for Phantoms next season

Ales Padelek is returning for another season with Phantoms
Ales Padelek is returning for another season with Phantoms
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Head coach Slava Koulikov insists he has full faith in Phantoms import star Ales Padelek to return to his best.

The Czech veteran has been retained by the city club for the new NIHL Division One South campaign despite struggling for form during last term.

James White on the puck.

James White on the puck.

Padelek (38) still contributed 55 points in all competitions but Koulikov is convinced there is more to come.

He said: “Imports had a really hard task last season due to the changes to the league. They had to adapt their roles within the team and to a style of hockey which was very different to what they were used to.

“’Padi’ is a hugely experienced, high-end, skilful player with an amazing shot. I know – and he also knows – he can be the difference in big games.

“I have every faith in him to show that this season. He remains a committed player and is training hard to ensure he is in great condition.

“I will be looking to ‘Padi’ to lead the team in big games and make everyone around him 10 per cent better.”

The club’s other import slot has been taken by returning Czech marksman Petr Stepanek with long-serving Lithuanian ace Darius Pliskauskas having been shown the door.

Phantoms have also handed improving local lad James White a return.

The 21 year-old forward contributed 15 points last term despite missing a chunk of the campaign through injury.

He is now entering a fourth season as part of the club’s senior side and Koulikov has high hopes for him.

Koulikov added: “James started last season on fire and was also outstanding in the play-offs, but unfortunately his progress was held up by an injury which took longer to recover from than was initially expected.

“But he has earned his place as one of our top nine forwards and I’m really pleased with how he is developing overall. He is the sort of guy who gives 110 per cent in every shift in games and training.

“Hopefully he will be able to enjoy a consistent and full season in 2018/19 and take hi game on to the next level.”