Phantoms need to make amends for a poor show
Assistant coach Jason Buckman has called for Phantoms to deliver one big performance . . . for three different reasons.
The city side face a third successive weekend with a solitary fixture when they travel to Sheffield for a Sunday lunchtime date in Group B of the NIHL National Cup (1pm).
And it is a crucial contest according to Buckman, who will be in charge along with player-coach Tom Norton, as Slava Koulikov is on World Championship duty with his GB Under 20 side.
Phantoms are under orders to pick up two points at iceSheffield to make amends for a miserable showing in an NIHL Autumn Cup defeat at Basingstoke last Saturday, strengthen their qualification bid in this competition and ensure they go into a crucial run of NIHL Division One South fixtures over Christmas and the new year on a high.
“I was not at all happy with the performance we produced in Basingstoke last Saturday,” stated Buckman. “I always give myself a couple of days to reflect on a game and I have got angrier about what I witnessed as time has passed.
“Basingstoke are short-benched at the moment. They were without one import and a top British forward, and were there for the taking.
“It was really disappointing that some of our main guys didn’t show up against a team who are one of our big rivals for the league title.
“I wanted us to put a stake in the ground, but that didn’t happen and the guys will feel the wrath in practice.
“We have a squad full of quality and we need to be at our best every time we step onto the ice - regardless of opposition or competition.
“First and foremost we need to get back on track in Sheffield to make sure we put ourselves in a position to qualify in that cup and also set ourselves up for the big Christmas and new year period.
“The next three weeks are going to be huge for all four teams chasing the league title and we need to go into that spell with a win and a good performance behind us.”
Phantoms lost 6-3 in their last visit to Sheffield in late November after conceding three times early on which led to netminder Euan King being pulled out of the fray.
But they responded with a 6-1 drubbing of the Steeldogs, who are top of NIHL Division One North, on home ice a few days later.
“We didn’t have the greatest of nights there a few weeks ago,” admitted Buckman. “We can’t afford to find ourselves in the same position as the last time we went there.
“It’s very difficult when you put yourself behind the eight ball so early in the game. Teams who get a lead against us tend to go defensive because of the quality we possess.
“We need a fast start like we had at home against Sheffield when we performed really well. That’s the level we want to hit.”
British forward James White returns from a nagging groin issue on Sunday.