League titles not won in December stresses Slava

Glenn Billing celebrates the overtime winner with Scott Robson and Martins Susters. Picture: Tom Scott
Glenn Billing celebrates the overtime winner with Scott Robson and Martins Susters. Picture: Tom Scott
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Head coach Slava Koulikov has refused to get carried away by Phantoms’ rise to the NIHL Division One South summit.

The city team jumped into pole position thanks to a 5-3 triumph at crisis club Milton Keynes Thunder last Saturday night.

They leapfrogged previous leaders Swindon, who fell to a surprise home defeat at the hands of Raiders, and then stretched their advantage to two points by beating the Wildcats in memorable style on Sunday.

Glenn Billing hit an overtime winner as Phantoms prevailed 3-2 against their closest challengers - who they also possess two games in hand on - in a Planet Ice thriller.

But Koulikov reacted to his side’s smashing progress in a typically understated manner. He said: “League titles are not won in December.

“Of course we can be very proud of the way we have performed so far to put ourselves in a good position, but we’re not even halfway through the season as yet.

“Everyone should know by now that we do not look any further ahead than the next game. That is our approach and it is working for us.

“It was pleasing to come through a tough game on the big ice in Milton Keynes with two points and we followed it up on Sunday night against Swindon.

“It was a great hockey game from start to finish . . . physical, entertaining, played at a high tempo and with lots of big chances for both teams.

“Swindon put everything on the line just as we knew they would after being beaten on their own ice the previous night.

“But we matched them in every department, probably had more clear opportunities and ‘Glenny’ took the goal in overtime really well.

“The whole of the team and the whole of the crowd were all men, women and children of the match for me.

“The excitement and the energy inside the rink was unbelievable and the fans definitely gave us the boost to win the game.”

Phantoms complete a hectic run of eight fixtures in just 16 days with two more NIHL Division One South outings this weekend.

They go to Basingstoke on Saturday, 6.30pm, before hosting Thunder at Planet Ice on Sunday, 5.30pm.

Those two games follow their NIHL Autumn Cup semi-final second leg against Sheffield tomorrow (Friday, 7.30pm) when Phantoms officials are hopeful of a 1,100 sell-out at Planet Ice.