Phantoms fans will get plenty of entertainment

Saturday's man-of-the-match Corey McEwen.
Saturday's man-of-the-match Corey McEwen.
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Head coach Slava Koulikov reckons Phantoms fans will be entertained in the new NIHL Division One South season.

The city team launch their league campaign when they entertain London side Raiders at Planet Ice on Saturday (7pm) ahead of a Sunday trip to Milton Keynes Thunder (6.45pm).

Phantoms netminder Jordan Marr denies Telford's Jason Silverthorn.

Phantoms netminder Jordan Marr denies Telford's Jason Silverthorn.

Whipping boys Cardiff Fire have departed leaving eight teams to do battle at this level and Koulikov believes the battle for honours will be both open and exciting.

And he is confident his men can again challenge for glory after agonisingly missing out on the title to Basingstoke last term.

He said: “We take plenty of momentum into our first league games and hopefully we will be sharper than we have showed in the last two weekends.

“We need to start well and the focus is on picking up points and putting ourselves in the position we want to be in the table.

“I don’t expect any team to be capable of going on the sort of winning streaks that ourselves and Basingstoke did when fighting for the title last season.

“A couple of teams are very strong on paper but I think there are as many as five clubs who can challenge and hopefully we are among them.

“To come so close to trophies last season and not manage to win any of them hurt at the time. We reviewed the year in detail, we evaluated what could have been different and the line has now been drawn under it.

“We are only interested in looking ahead and there is no doubt we will be competitive again as we try to fight for every piece of silverware.

“It will be way tougher than last year and hopefully the product on the ice will be more entertaining overall for fans.”

Raiders were beaten in both legs of a pre-season challenge against Bracknell before losing 6-4 to the same side in their league opener last Saturday, but they followed up with victory against Streatham the following night.

Meanwhile the Milton Keynes side triumphed in a pair of pre-season games against lower-level side Slough before taking a point from an overtime defeat in Streatham last weekend in their opening league clash.