We’re still underdogs insists coach Koulikov

Nathan Pollard celebrates putting Phantoms 2-0 up against Bracknell. Picture: Tom Scott
Nathan Pollard celebrates putting Phantoms 2-0 up against Bracknell. Picture: Tom Scott
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Head coach Slava Koulikov wants Phantoms to continue to be masters of their own destiny.

The city team continued a terrific run of form when reaching the NIHL Autumn Cup final last Friday by drawing 3-3 in a second-leg clash in Swindon to clinch a 7-6 aggregate triumph.

And they followed up that fine effort by seeing off NIHL Division One South table-toppers Bracknell 48 hours later when claiming a 4-2 victory at Planet Ice.

Koulikov issued plenty of praise to his players for both of those results – and indeed their 13-game unbeaten streak – but remains adamant his third-placed side are still underdogs in the chase for honours this season.

“We put so much into reaching the final on a night which was physically draining and mentally tiring,” said Koulikov.

“The guys had to dig really deep but we got ourselves back into the zone again to beat the leaders just a couple of days later.

“I am very proud of what my players produced on Friday and Sunday – and in fact for the whole season so far.

“A team is only ever in control of their own destiny in sport and we’re doing that very well at the moment by producing the performances we need to pick up the results we want.

“It’s exciting to be part of a league where every game is a real test as coaches and players have to always be at their best.

“I said before the season started that we are underdogs and my view has not changed on that, but we want to be involved in important games and big weekends, and we have another of those coming up.”

Koulikov is not wrong. Phantoms face crucial clashes this Saturday (when travelling to Streatham, 6.15pm) and Sunday (when hosting title favourites Swindon at Planet Ice, 5.30pm).

The dates have not been confirmed as yet for Phantoms’ final clashes against Sheffield Steeldogs in the NIHL Autumn Cup, but both legs are likely to take place during December.

Phantoms are also on course to reach the latter stages of the NIHL South Cup as well.

They sit top of the standings in that competition with the result of the first home and away clashes against each team counting.

n Koulikov has named one Phantoms player and another Peterborough lad in his Great Britain Under 20 squad for their World Championship event in January.

Defensive talent Bradley Bowering has been handed a place in the GB party for the Division Two, Group A competition in Estonian capital Tallinn.

Koulikov also includes forward Morgan Pizzo-Clarke – the city-born but currently American-based son of British hockey legend David Clarke – in the squad which will face the host nation, Korea, Lithuania, Romania and Spain between January 13 and 19.