It’s a double whammy for Phantoms and even Slava admits he was taken by surprise

Tom Norton celebrates a powerplay strike with Ales Padelek. Picture: Tom Scott
Tom Norton celebrates a powerplay strike with Ales Padelek. Picture: Tom Scott
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Coach Slava Koulikov admitted Phantoms’ fantastic four-point weekend even took him by surprise.

The club’s tactical genius confessed that he didn’t believe it would be possible for a depleted squad to overcome two of the toughest teams in the English Premier League on successive nights.

But, with the odds stacked against them due to a lengthy casualty list, Phantoms produced a terrific pair of triumphs.

They beat fierce rivals Milton Keynes 3-2 on their own ice last Saturday before sinking reigning champions Basingstoke 4-1 at Planet Ice the following night.

Koulikov admitted: “I have to be honest and admit I didn’t expect us to be able to win both games, but the guys gave me a pleasant surprise.

“Our netminder played well on both nights, we had great defensive coverage, the young forwards - people like James White, Owen Griffiths and Brad Moore - gave us incredible levels of energy, and we were able to put the puck in the net when we had opportunities to do so.

“I have always said that we have no small roles here. Every single guy is as important as the next man and that has been proved by getting these results when so short-staffed.

“We had to soak up a lot of pressure during the course of the weekend, but we knew that would probably be the case.

“There were times when we were outplayed, but we kept our discipline, stuck to our plan and managed to come away with four points.

“While Milton Keynes is always our big rivalry, Basingstoke was the bigger game in many ways as we ideally wanted to keep them behind us in the table.

“That was in our minds when we made a plan for the weekend, but we got into a position in MK that meant we really had to go all out for the win there.

“To pick up the two points on Saturday was really pleasing, but the guys overcame the tiredness to put in another great performance to beat Basingstoke, who had a couple of guys missing themselves.

“I don’t know whether you can say that this four-point weekend is better than any other we’ve had, but we are definitely feeling very proud about the results.”

The weekend double tightened Phantoms’ grip on third place in the EPL standings, but they have two more tough tests coming up.

They entertain Guildford this Saturday (7pm) ahead of a trip to table-toppers Telford on Sunday (6pm). It’s a second visit to Shropshire in the space of a fortnight after Phantoms pipped the Tigers on sudden-death penalties to reach the final of the EPL Cup recently.

“Beating Guildford would be a big step towards securing a top-four finish and that’s our goal from our current position,” added Koulikov.

“That is certainly the bigger game for us this weekend and we’ll hope to pick up two points on Saturday before going to Telford.”