We can push title favourites all the way says Koulikov

Corey McEwen holds off Steve Whitfield of the Wildcats. Picture: Tom Scott
Corey McEwen holds off Steve Whitfield of the Wildcats. Picture: Tom Scott
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Head coach Slava Koulikov believes Phantoms can push favourites Swindon in the race for NIHL Division One South glory . . . despite being beaten by the Wildcats last weekend.

The city side saw a 10-game winning streak ended when Swindon claimed a 5-3 victory at Planet Ice in a battle of the second-tier big-guns.

Phantoms now trail the table-topping Wiltshire side by four points in the early-season standings, but do boast two games in hand.

“Swindon have a lot of talent in their roster and that is why they are the favourites,” said Koulikov. “But we are the guys who can hopefully push them all the way.

“We have over-achieved a lot so far this season in my opinion, but we now know we can fight with every team at this level and that we are capable of winning every time we hit the ice.

“We’ve put ourselves into the bracket of teams who could win the title and there are still many games and many months of the season ahead. League titles aren’t won or lost in November.”

Phantoms pipped Swindon 7-6 on aggregate in a recent NIHL Autumn Cup semi-final, triumphing 4-3 on home ice in the opening leg before battling to a 3-3 deadlock in the return clash.

But it was the Wildcats who tasted success in the first of the two clubs’ six NIHL Division One South clashes as Phantoms were occasionally found wanting at both ends of the ice.

The city men were unable to take some glorious chances and also found themselves caught out defensively by a Swindon side they meet again on December 1.

Koulikov added: “All three games against Swindon so far have been close.

“Unfortunately it is not easy to win a hockey game when conceding five goals and we have to give credit to Aaron (player-coach Nell) and his Swindon guys for scoring that number in our rink.

“We created a lot of what I class as Grade A chances, but we couldn’t put the puck away and they are the opportunities that have to be taken in big games in any sport.

“We could also have done better defensively for a couple of the Swindon goals which came from our mistakes as well.”

Phantoms are yet to complete a third of their league season. They have played only 12 out of a total of 42 fixtures so far.