Peterborough Phantoms are still looking up despite injury crisis
Head coach Slava Koulikov believes Peterborough Phantoms can reel in the top two teams in the NIHL National Division - despite being hit by an injury crisis.
The city side pocketed a valuable point when pipped 3-2 at table-topping Telford last Sunday in a clash eventually settled by penalties in the hosts’ favour.
But a depleted Phantoms roster did more than enough to prove they can again challenge for honours to follow up their treble of last season.
Koulikov’s men currently occupy third spot in the standings. They are seven points adrift of pacesetting Telford and trail second-placed Swindon, who they travel to face tomorrow (December 14), by four points.
“So many things can change as there are still more than half of the games to play this season,” said Koulikov.
“We’re seeing the top two teams drop points and I do believe we can catch them, but we need to be healthy for that to happen.
“We’ve not been able to put a full team on the ice for a while and that’s not going to change for the next few weeks either.
“It’s not just a case of having important players missing - it’s also the effect that has on the rest of the team. It makes consistency a real issue due to the changes in personnel.
“To be sitting third in such a competitive league at this stage of the season - and to also be through to the semi-finals of the cup - is a good position to be in, but we are always striving to do better.
“It’s only natural to want to get to second place if you’re in third and to want to be top if you’re second.
“We just have to hope that we can gradually get guys back on to the ice and that our bad luck with injuries is coming to an end.”
That certainly doesn’t look likely at the moment with leading British forward Glenn Billing, key defencemen Scott Robson and back-up netminder Ryan Bainborough all out for several more weeks.
Koulikov had initially hoped that Robson would return ahead of Christmas, but his recovery from a knee problem has been held up after seeing a specialist earlier this week. He now requires an MRI scan.
Young defenceman Brad Bowering has missed the last five games with a shoulder problem, but should return this weekend and the same applies to forward Conor Pollard, who has shaken off a back issue which has kept him out for four matches.
But there was another addition to the casualty list last Sunday when forward Will Weldon suffered damage to his foot when blocking a shot during the game in Telford. He could now be ruled out this weekend.
Koulikov again hopes to call on Nottingham Panthers defensive duo Josh Tetlow and Joe Hazeldine providing they are available from the Elite League club.
Tetlow has iced for Phantoms in their last four games, while Hazeldine impressed when featuring on both nights last weekend.
Phantoms then host Raiders on Sunday (December 15, 3pm) when they will look to continue a 100 per cent record against the Romford side this season.
They have already beaten them twice on the road and also roared into double-figures during a 10-1 home success last month.