Peterborough Phantoms coach is daring to dream again as the league season is set to start
Peterborough Phantoms are out to turn their dream into reality again.
It certainly came true last season when the city club completed only the second honours treble in their history.
Triumphs in the NIHL Autumn Cup, NIHL South Cup and NIHL Division One South play-offs will live long in the memory – particularly as all three pieces of silverware were lifted on home ice in front of their adoring fans.
And they came agonisingly close to even more glory with the NIHL Division One South title slipping from their grasp after they held a dominant position and the NIHL Grand Final being snatched away by a heart-breaking sudden-death goal from opponents Hull.
But the 2018/19 campaign is now a thing of the past and there is a real determination inside Planet Ice to make the 2019/20 season another to savour. The action starts this weekend with home and away clashes against Bracknell. They travel to The Hive on Saturday (September 21, 6pm) before welcoming the Bees to Planet Ice on Sunday (5.30pm).
“We have to dream,” said head coach Slava Koulikov. “The dream came true for us last season with three trophies.
“It was a season that none of us – myself, the players, the owners and the supporters –will forget for a long time.
“Hopefully we can have another nice dream again this season in what will be a much tougher league.
“We’ve been moving in the right direction through the pre-season games and there is no doubt we have a competitive team in my mind.
“Hopefully we also get a bit of luck with the things we can’t control, such as officiating and injuries.
“The guys set their own goals and are accountable to each other.
“My job as their coach is to give them the right tools and plans to achieve those targets.”
Koulikov is referring to the new NIHL National Division which is a collection of the best sides from NIHL Division One South and NIHL Division One North last term – with the added bonus of including a Milton Keynes Lightning outfit who are back in the second tier after a couple of campaigns in the Elite League.
The section is split into two conferences with Phantoms in the Southern section along with title favourites Swindon, Bracknell, Basingstoke and Raiders.
Milton Keynes (somewhat strangely given the geography), Telford, Hull, Sheffield and the new Leeds side make up the Northern bracket.
Each club plays eight games against those in their own conference (four home/four away) with only four clashes (two home/two away) against those from the opposite group.
There is also an NIHL National Cup competition with each team’s first home and away results against each opponent counting towards those standings. The top four will then progress to the latter stages.
“It’s a new league with a new format and there will be ups and downs just like in any season,” added Koulikov.
“Every game will be a battle and we can’t afford to switch off. Any team that does that will be punished in this league.
“We’ve got conferences within the league with more games against the teams in our region.
“Obviously that could have a big impact on the standings if one of the sections ends up being much stronger than the other.
“It could put some clubs at a disadvantage and give others a big advantage, but we will have to wait and see how that pans out.
“But whatever happens I think it’s going to be an exciting season of hockey.”
While the league might have changed, little else has for Phantoms with their roster almost identical to that which enjoyed so much success last term.
There’s just one switch in the forward ranks with the retiring James White replaced by Conor Pollard.