There’s more room for improvement says Slava

Tom Norton celebrates scoring the equaliser
Tom Norton celebrates scoring the equaliser
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Head coach Slava Koulikov has declared himself happy with Phantoms’ start to the season . . . but he still believes more improvement can be unlocked.

The city team booked their place in the semi-finals of the NIHL Autumn Cup last weekend after collecting home and away triumphs against Hull.

Corey McEwen scores the deciding penalty shot.

Corey McEwen scores the deciding penalty shot.

They pipped the Pirates 2-1 after penalties at Planet Ice last Saturday before triumphing 6-5 in a thriller in Humberside the following night when import Petr Stepanek thumped four goals.

Now they switch their attention back to climbing the NIHL Division One South table with a trip to Basingstoke this Saturday (6.30pm) before welcoming Streatham to Planet Ice on Sunday (5.30pm).

“You can’t ask for any more than two wins in a weekend,” said Koulikov.

“We knew we were facing a very strong Hull team with a powerful and experienced roster and an import netminder.

“It was important to get the win on Saturday to reach the semi-finals and we managed to do that in the end in a game which could have gone either way.

“Winning in Hull – a place where we don’t have a good record – really pleased me as we were without a couple of big guys.

“I’m happy for Petr because he has been working really hard even though the goals weren’t coming. He carried on playing like a leader and it happened for him on Sunday.

“It’s been an extremely good start as far as I am concerned. We’ve only dropped one point in the league and two points in the cup, but as a coach I’m always evaluating performances and looking at ways we can get better.

“We have strengthened at the back and the number of goals we’re conceding has gone down, but on the other hand we’re probably short of a couple of top-end British forwards which means we’re not scoring as many goals either.

“It’s tough to strike the right balance and sometimes when improving one part of the team it inevitably leads to another part being weakened, but that’s just something we have to work with.”

Phantoms were without forward Corey McEwen for the away clash against Hull due to a knee problem. Netminder Jordan Marr was left out with Ryan Bainborough handed a debut between the pipes.

McEwen may not be risked again this weekend which begins with a clash against a Bison side who Phantoms beat home and away in pre-season challenge clashes.

But new-look Basingstoke – the reigning champions - have won both of their league outings to date after recording victories against Raiders and basement boys Invicta.

Streatham have enjoyed a fine start to the NIHL Division One South campaign, climbing into third place after reeling off three successive victories. They boast former Phantoms defenceman Ben Russell and forward Leigh Jamieson in their ranks.

Koulikov added: “There is no point in looking at the table at this stage. We just need to focus on each game as it comes.

“Going to Basingstoke is always tough. They have a good coach, some good Brits and imports who are putting up good numbers.

“Streatham have also been getting good results and it’s going to be a tough weekend, but we will do our best to get the points on the board.”