In-form Peterborough Phantoms face hectic start to the new year
A huge January lies ahead for Peterborough Phantoms, both in terms of workload and significance.
The demanding month began last night (New Year’s Day) when they faced fierce rivals Milton Keynes in the NIHL National Division at Planet Ice.
That was the first of nine league clashes during a hectic spell which also features both legs of their NIHL National Cup semi-final showdown against Hull. And head coach Slava Koulikov admits the next few weeks will have a major impact on the season.
“Our expectation for this year was to compete in the top four and we’ve managed to do that,” said Koulikov.
“Getting ourselves through to the semi-finals of the cup was an excellent effort and, hopefully, we can go one step further to the final.
“It won’t be easy against Hull by any means, but that is a priority for us. We managed to win three pieces of silverware last season and it would be great to get another trophy.
“We have a very tough run ahead with so many games in such a short space of time. It’s tough on everyone, especially the players who have already worked so hard for us this season.
“But we have to continue to dig deep and to fight for every point that is available as there are a lot of strong teams chasing in the league.”
Koulikov was thrilled with the way in which his team ended 2019 with a four-point weekend.
Phantoms followed up a thrilling 7-6 overtime triumph in Milton Keynes last Saturday by battling to a 5-2 home success against Basingstoke the following night.
“It was an unbelievable game in MK,” added Koulikov. “There was an electric atmosphere, and the fans were treated to a lot of entertainment. To win the game in the way we did was really nice.
“It was important to try to follow it up against Basingstoke and to finish the year with four points is a great achievement.
“People might see the 5-2 scoreline and think it was an easy game, but that definitely wasn’t the case. We really had to fight for the win.
“We set ourselves the target of winning five of our last six games of 2019 and we managed to get four of them, despite having important players missing.”
Thankfully Phantoms’ injury problems have eased, with forward Glenn Billing due to return this weekend while Petr Stepanek and Martins Susters were both back for the final clashes of 2019.
That means defenceman Scott Robson, who has already missed two months with a knee injury, is the only current absentee.
P W L F A Pts
Telford Tigers 29 22 7 133 99 47
Swindon Wildcats 29 19 10 133 92 41
Phantoms 30 18 12 131 101 38
Basingstoke Bison 29 15 14 108 103 34
Hull Pirates 28 15 13 131 128 32
Sheffield Steeldogs 28 14 14 101 100 29
MK Lightning 28 12 16 100116 27
Bracknell Bees 28 11 17 101 113 25
London Raiders 29 10 19 102 141 23
Leeds Chiefs 26 6 20 73 120 13
A report on the Wednesday night game against MK can be found at www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk.