Phantoms player-coach Slava Koulikov admits the club’s English Premier League play-offs quarter-final showdown this weekend is too close to call.
The city outfit take on Swindon Wildcats for a place in the finals at Coventry over the Easter weekend – and two teams who ended a 48-game season on the same points tally are expected to again prove very evenly-matched.
Phantoms’ reward for pipping the Wildcats to fourth spot was the right to select when to stage their home game. They opted to travel to Wiltshire for the first leg on Saturday (6pm) before hosting the Wildcats in the return at Planet Ice on Sunday (5.30pm).
Koulikov said: “Finishing in fourth is a great achievement for a club of our size and budget. I’m very happy for everyone involved in our organisation and it is something we are all very proud about.
“The guys have done great to make so much progress after being ninth last season, but now it is all about the play-offs.
“I have said many times that Telford were the top team by some distance in this league and that Bracknell were a little behind everyone else. There is very little between the other seven teams and they are all capable of beating each other on any given night.
“It is a 50/50 chance this weekend as far as I’m concerned. Ourselves and Swindon were level on points at the end of a long season.
“We have won games in their rink and they have won in our building so I am expecting an exciting weekend.”
Koulikov expects long-term injury absentee James Hutchinson to be available for the quarter-final showdown and his experience could prove invaluable in the shoot-out for honours.
Hutchinson was a member of the club’s treble-winning team of 2008/09 and Phantoms are now attempting to reach the finals weekend in Coventry for only the second time since. The club lost at the semi-final stage in 2010/11.
Forward Edgars Bebris will also play after sitting out the final three games of the regular season with a knock.
Ticket prices for the home leg on Sunday are £14 for adults, £8 for concessions and £5 for children. They can all be booked in advance from the rink or through the club website www.gophantoms.co.uk