Peterborough Phantoms coach so proud after a year of trials, tribulations and trophies

Peterborough Phantoms chief Slava Koulikov has reflected on a year of trials, tribulations and trophies.

Friday, 27th December 2019, 10:00 am
Slava Koulikov with the 2019 Division One South play-off trophy.

The city club’s head coach masterminded a memorable 2019 in which they completed an NIHL Division One South honours treble last term.

Phantoms won the NIHL South Cup and the NIHL Division One South play-offs to add to the NIHL Autumn Cup crown they had lifted last December.

And they have since made a hugely encouraging start to life in the NIHL National Division – the sport’s new and improved second tier – in the current campaign.

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Peterborough ice hockey legend Dough McEwen is presented with a Phantoms shirt by captain James Ferrara and coach Slava Koulikov. Photo: Tom Scott.

Phantoms have shrugged off a catalogue of injury problems to settle into third place in the standings and have also booked their place in the semi-finals of the NIHL National Cup.

Therefore it is no surprise that Koulikov can look back on the past 12 months with a huge helping of satisfaction and cast an eye to the future with plenty of optimism.

“I think we can all say that 2019 has been a very good year for the organisation,” said Koulikov.

“To win three trophies can sometimes take many years, but we managed to do it all in one season.

“It was a fantastic achievement and we couldn’t ask for any more even though we came so close to the fourth trophy as well in the play-offs final.

“Every player, every coach, every owner and every supporter wants to have success and we were able to enjoy that while making some special memories.

“I cannot pretend that this season has not been tough at times – especially now with so many guys out injured.

“But the fact we are sitting in third place – only two points behind a team like Swindon with all of their resources – is absolutely amazing.

“We have proved that when we have everyone available and we’re playing well that we can beat anyone on any night.

“The fact we have still managed to pick up results in the past few weeks when being hit so hard by injuries is also really pleasing.

“The ultimate aim is to win trophies again and we’ve got ourselves into good positions in the league and cup, but right now my only wish is to get all of the guys back onto the ice!”

Koulikov is hopeful that import Petr Stepanek and fellow forward Martins Susters will return for the final weekend of 2019 while last season’s all-star pick Glenn Billing is on schedule to strap on his skates again early in the new year. Defenceman Scott Robson remains a longer-team casualty.

Phantoms complete the calendar year with a derby date at rejuvenated rivals Milton Keynes – who have won seven of their last eight games - tomorrow (December 28, 7pm) before hosting a tough Basingstoke side in Bretton on Sunday, 5.30pm.

Koulikov added: “Milton Keynes is a top-three team as far as I’m concerned and it is no surprise to see them flying now.

“They are probably the highest-paid team in the league and they have a calibre of players who shouldn’t be at this level.

“They had a bad start to the season, but they are getting on a roll now and it’s going to be a really tough test for us.

“We also know how difficult it is to play against Basingstoke but hopefully we can end the year with a win in front of our fans.

“We managed to dig deep and get two points last weekend and that will be the target again.”