Phantoms go into competitive battle full of confidence

Ales Padelek scored a hat-trick in the season opener. Picture: Tom Scott
Ales Padelek scored a hat-trick in the season opener. Picture: Tom Scott
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Head coach Slava Koulikov has declared himself happy as Phantoms prepare for competitive battle.

The city team face Telford home and away this weekend in the NIHL Autumn Cup, hosting the Tigers at Planet Ice on Saturday (6.30pm) before heading to Shropshire on Sunday (6pm).

And they go into those clashes in buoyant mood after back-to-back successes against fellow NIHL Division One South side Basingstoke in the Billy Glover Memorial Cup last weekend, following up a 3-2 away victory with a 5-2 home triumph.

Koulikov was able to pull out plenty of positives from those performances, not least of all the form of veteran import Ales Padelek.

The Czech ace hit the winner in Hampshire after excellence from new netminder Jordan Marr had kept Phantoms in the contest.

Padelek then fired a hat-trick the following night to suggest he is back on song after struggling for form last season.

“Two wins was good for the morale of the guys after not even being together for a week,” said Koulikov.

“There are still a lot of things to work on in practice this week, but our performances improved from period to period and day to day.

“The powerplay worked really well with three goals on both nights and that is really pleasing to see.

“It’s not about singling people out, but our netminder kept us in the game at times in Basingstoke.

“We will always have the chance to win games if able to keep the number of goals we concede to two or under on a regular basis, and Jordan is capable of doing that.

“It’s good to see ‘Padi’ playing well and scoring goals too. We all know what he can do because we’ve seen it in the past and hopefully he can keep performing like this.

“Even though we scored eight goals over the weekend, I’d like to see us create more opportunities while also trying to cut down the number of chances we give up on our goal.

“It always takes time for things to be right – even more so this year with a shorter pre-season and the fact we have so many young, homegrown players coming in to our roster. But those guys are already giving us glimpses of what they can do.”

Telford beat Phantoms at the semi-final stage of the NIHL Final Four last season, but Koulikov insists avenging that 4-1 loss in Coventry won’t be on his players’ minds this weekend.

The Tigers have also had considerably more time on the ice this season with four NIHL Division One North games already completed. They’ve won three of them – two by double-figure scorelines after slamming Nottingham Lions 12-1 and Whitley Bay 12-6.

Koulikov added: “That semi-final is in the past and we are only interested in moving forward. It’s a new season with a completely clean slate and what happened last year won’t have any bearing.”