Phantoms suffered a sluggish start to last season, but showed impressive form from January inwards culiminating in qualification for finals weekend in Coventry.
Unfortunately the city side lost a thrilling semi-final to MK Lightning, but there was still quiet satisfaction in how the season ended.
"From January onwards we were the team to beat,” Koulikov said at the Phantoms presentation night. “I wouldn’t say team were frightened of us, but they knew they were going to get a tough game.
"It was a long learning curve for us last season. Next season it hopefully won’t take us three months to get going. I was certaintly not at my best early on as there had been a lot going on the summer (Koulikov bace a co-owner). We will certainly have unfinished business next season, although recruitment will be harder with two new teams joining the league.”
Hull Seahawks and Bristol Pitbulls are the new teams in the National League next season. There will be 11 teams competing for honours.
Phantoms have already signed up key players Glenn Billing and Callum Buglass for next season.
They were both among the awards winners at the club’s end-of-season presentation night.
They shared the coaches’ player-of-the-tear prize, while Buglass was also named defenceman of the year.
Duncan Speirs was the main winner on the night as he collected three awards after his first full season with the club. Speirs took home the ‘Phanforce’ player-of-the-year, forward of the year and the players’ player-of-the-year trophies.
Teenager Jasper Foster won the ‘Phanforce’ development player of the year and the most improved player prizes, but the main player-of-the-year prize went to outstanding netminder Jordan Marr.
Foster said: “I wasn’t expecting any awards so this is a nice way to end the season. I’d like to thank the fans as there is no way we would have had the season we did without their support.
"On a personal level I’m determined not to change the way I play.”
Phantoms honour their captain Will Weldon with a testimonial match at Planet Ice on Saturday (May 28, 5.30pm face-off).