Phantoms praised for making quick comeback

Ales Padelek scored three times against Milton Keynes.
Ales Padelek scored three times against Milton Keynes.
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Head coach Slava Koulikov saluted the character of his Phantoms players after bouncing back from cup disappointment with two valuable league victories - but he was quick to admit their performances need to improve.

The city club suffered an agonising NIHL Autumn Cup exit last Thursday when pipped on penalties by Swindon Wildcats at the semi-final stage.

But Phantoms bounced back with two weekend wins which boosted their NIHL Division One South title hopes, following up a 6-1 Saturday success at MK Thunder with a hard-fought 4-2 home triumph against Invicta the following day.

“Losing on penalties is always tough to take,” said Koulikov. “Two good teams gave everything in a very good cup semi-final, but there always has to be a loser. Unfortunately that was us.

“It was tough for the guys to experience that disappointment and have to pick themselves up again so quickly. They all had a late finish on Thursday and worked on Friday, so winning both games at the weekend pleases me.

“They really showed their character to come through games that were very tough. We didn’t really get into total control in MK until the final half of the third period, and then we had to work hard again on Sunday.

“We know our performances can be better because we only really played well in two or three periods last weekend, but I would much rather take two wins in this way then play unbelievable hockey and drop points.

“We saw that earlier in the season against MK Thunder on a night when we had 70 shots on goal but ended up being beaten.

“We’ve not had our regular schedule for the last few weeks, but we’re getting back into it now and I think that will be good for the guys.”

Phantoms now sit two points clear at the top of the NIHL Division One South standings ahead of two clashes against basement side Cardiff Fire this weekend (home on Saturday, 7pm, then away on Sunday, 6pm).

Closest challengers Basingstoke do have a game in hand on Phantoms.