We’re not the title favourites insists Phantoms coach

The Phanroms v Basingstoke game was a fractious affair with several confrontations in the first period. Picture: Tom Scott
The Phanroms v Basingstoke game was a fractious affair with several confrontations in the first period. Picture: Tom Scott
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Head coach Slava Koulikov insists Phantoms cannot be classed as favourites for NIHL Division One South title glory.

The city team go into 2019 in a share of top spot, but the top four teams are covered by just two points in an exciting campaign.

Phantoms boast games in hand on their fellow title contenders – joint-top Swindon, third-placed Basingstoke and fourth-placed Bracknell – but all of those sides have boosted their rosters in recent days.

Koulikov stressed: “We’re definitely one of the teams that could win the league, but we are nowhere near being favourites.

“We had a long unbeaten streak earlier in the season that put us in a good position and if any team can repeat that in the rest of the season they will be very tough to beat for the title.

“We do have games in hand, but they have to be turned into points and we saw last weekend that is not easy.

“It’s very tough to predict what might happen with so much hockey still to play. We never look too far ahead and we always make sure the next game is the most important.

“The other three teams have all brought in new players in the last few days, but my guys are hungry for more trophies.”

Swindon have signed a third import in Swedish ace Jonas Hoog, Bracknell have drafted in Canadian forward Tyler VanKleef and Basingstoke have added British forward Adam Harding after he was let go by Swindon.

Phantoms were left frustrated after being pipped 3-2 by a last-minute powerplay goal at joint leaders Swindon last Saturday before succumbing by the same scoreline after penalties against Basingstoke 24 hours later.

The focus now shifts to two more tough tests with Phantoms going to Bracknell this Saturday (6pm) before hosting Raiders at Planet Ice on Sunday (5.30pm).

Koulikov added: “Last weekend things didn’t go our way and we ended up with only one point when I felt we deserved more. The performances were certainly there, but we just didn’t get the breaks, the bounces and the decisions to go our way at times.

“But we move on into another difficult weekend with two more important games against two strong teams.

“We know all about the threats Bracknell pose and we are well aware of the challenge of facing Raiders as well. They have taken points in our rink this season and last season, and we don’t want that to happen again.”