Runners-up spot a huge achievement says coach Slava
Phantoms coach Slava Koulikov hailed a runners-up finish in the English Premier League as a '˜huge achievement'.
The city team clinched second spot with a couple of games to spare after beating a weakened Telford side 5-1 at Planet Ice last Wednesday night.
Phantoms eventually finished four points adrift of champions Basingstoke as they took another leap up the ladder following a fourth-placed finish in the previous campaign.
Koulikov said: “It was not until the final day of last season that we secured fourth spot so to have clinched second place with two games to spare this season is a big step forward.
“The aim was to continue to make progress and we have done that by finishing as runners-up and reaching the EPL Cup final.
“They are two huge achievements for everyone connected to the organisation.”
Phantoms’ second place in the standings was accompanied by the second-highest goal tally and the second-tightest defence in the EPL.
Koulikov’s men were the best-performing team on the road as their 27 away clashes produced 38 points – four better than the return of title-winners Basingstoke.
But Phantoms were not as impressive on their own ice with the 40 points gained in Bretton bettered by the home exploits Basingstoke (48), Guildford (45) and Swindon (41).
Phantoms collected points home and away during the final weekend of the regular season, following up a 6-5 loss in overtime in Guildford last Saturday night with a hard-fought 3-2 home triumph against Sheffield the following night.
Koulikov was delighted with the performances of two of the club’s emerging talents during those clashes.
Back-up netminder Adam Long, called into service with Janis Auzins rested ahead of the play-offs, and debutant defenceman Callum Medcalf, who plays his regular hockey at Under 18 level, both impressed during full EPL outings on successive nights.
Koulikov added: “Adam has never let us down when stepping in for Janis and he deserved the opportunity to play a couple of full games.
“He played very well on both nights and was a big factor in keeping us ahead against Sheffield in the final period on Sunday.
“It was also very pleasing to be able to give Callum his first taste of senior hockey.
“He is a player I have monitored for a while and he did a very good job. He wasn’t fazed by the challenge of playing in the EPL.”