League no longer a priority says coach Koulikov

Tom Norton scraps it out with Guildford's Tom Duggan. Picture: Tom Scott
Tom Norton scraps it out with Guildford's Tom Duggan. Picture: Tom Scott
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Phantoms coach Slava Koulikov admits he is now looking beyond the club’s remaining English Premier League fixtures.

The city team have nine games remaining in the regular season, but Koulikov is convinced a top-four finish is already a certainty.

They are 13 points ahead of a fifth-placed Guildford Flames side they thrashed 6-1 at Planet Ice last Saturday night.

It means Koulikov will now concentrate on ensuring his roster is cherry ripe for a double honours challenge later in the campaign.

They face fierce rivals Milton Keynes in the EPL Cup final in mid-March with the play-offs following shortly afterwards.

Koulikov admitted: “I’m not for one minute saying that I don’t care about results, but my main focus is ensuring we are in the strongest possible shape when it comes to the cup final and the play-offs.

“We are in a position where we are competing for two trophies, and the league is not one of them. Therefore that has to now be our lowest priority.

“I would put my house on us finishing in the top four and that is a pleasing achievement in such a tough league.

“I still want to finish as high as we possibly can and that looks like being the third place we currently hold, but we have bigger targets a little bit further down the line.

“We’ve had several guys missing lately and we have a few others who are playing through injuries and niggles.

“My job is to manage their game-time between now and the cup final.”

Phantoms will have home advantage in the opening leg of that EPL Cup showpiece on Sunday, March 12. The return clash in Milton Keynes is on Saturday, March 18.

The group stage of the revamped play-offs then starts the following weekend with the top two finishers in each section advancing to the finals in Coventry on April 8 and 9.

More immediately, the club have two league games this weekend. They go to Sheffield on Saturday (7.30pm) before hosting Milton Keynes the following night at Planet Ice (5.30pm).