The going has got tough for Peterborough Phantoms, but they are still fighting hard and picking up wins
Peterborough Phantoms head coach Slava Koulikov believes the current injury crisis has created the toughest spell of his successful reign.
The city club have been deprived of key players throughout the inaugural NIHL National Division campaign, but have still managed to rise to third place in the standings.
Import Petr Stepanek is the latest addition to the casualty list after suffering whiplash in an awkward incident early in the 6-4 defeat at title favourites Swindon on Saturday.
The prolific Czech star, who is also struggling with a nerve issue in his wrist, joined top-line forward Glenn Billing (fractured finger) and star defenceman Scott Robson (knee ligaments) on the sidelines.
“I cannot lie, it is very tough for everyone at the moment,” Koulikov said.
“We had a lot of injuries in my first full season when we won the play-offs, but they all came in one spell, hit us badly for a few weeks and then cleared up.
“What we’re experiencing this season is much more difficult to deal with as we’ve had problems from before the season even started.”
Phantoms were also without Corey McEwen for the first 10 games of the season because of a shoulder problem, while fellow forwards Conor Pollard and Jarvis Hunt, and defenceman Brad Bowering, have all had spells out.
“It’s almost like we get one guy back in and then lose two others, but we just have to continue to dig deep and pull through,” added Koulikov.
“It’s not just the players we have missing, it’s also the effect it has on others.
“It was really difficult for Corey and Martins (Susters) to adjust to being without Petr on their line.
“We’ve also had to move Will (Weldon) up to the top line with Glenn out, and while he has done brilliantly, it has meant changing other things.
“In all honesty Will shouldn’t have played last weekend either, but he got through both games on one leg!”
Phantoms bounced back from their loss in Swindon to beat Raiders 6-4 at Planet Ice on Sunday night.
They are back in Bretton tomorrow (December 21, 7pm) when hosting Bracknell, before heading to Romford to take on Raiders on Sunday (5.15pm).
“It’s always important to focus on our own performance rather than worrying too much about the opponents,” said Koulikov.
“That is even more important in our current situation with makeshift lines and players trying to build relationships with each other.
“Fingers crossed we can pick up at least two points from this weekend and avoid any more injuries.”
Koulikov will again ask Elite League outfit Nottingham Panthers to provide a player after allowing him to use defenceman Josh Tetlow and Joe Hazeldine in recent games.