Slava asks fans to give the team a liftagainst big rivals

Table-topping Phantoms go into the biggest game of the NIHL Division One South season so far in possession of a perfect record - but coach Slava Koulikov insists their opponents are the team to beat.

Thursday, 19th October 2017, 4:08 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 1:25 pm
Captain James Ferrara in action versus Invicta Dynamos. Picture: Tom Scott

The city team have enjoyed a terrific start to life in the sport’s new second tier, reeling off seven successive league wins - and averaging seven goals per game in the process!

But their title credentials are set to be seriously tested on Saturday (7pm) when Swindon roll into Planet Ice for a top-of-the-table showdown.

Koulikov said: “Swindon have a lot of quality.They are the team to beat.

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“On paper they are the best team in the league. They also have cohesion that comes from a lot of guys who have played together for a while.

“We know they spend a lot of money which always helps, but it doesn’t guarantee trophies.

“It looks like they have consistency as well - they’ve only dropped one point in the league.

“It’s an important game and we’re all looking forward to it.

“It isn’t one that will decide the title, or anything like that, at this stage of the season, but I’m sure both teams will really want to win it.

“We have a big month coming up with plenty of tough tests in the league and cups.”

Koulikov has called on fans to turn out in force for the showdown against the second-placed Wildcats, who sit three points behind Phantoms in the standings. They have also played one fewer game.

As predicted, fellow former English Premier League sides Bracknell and Basingstoke also occupy positions in the top four. Bracknell’s only defeat so far came in their opening game against Phantoms, while Basingstoke have won all four of their league fixtures to date.

“We need a full building,” added Koulikov. “It makes such a difference when the place is packed. Everyone thrives in front of a big crowd and a great atmosphere.

“There have been massive games in recent years where the fans have been a big factor. Supporters new, current and old - we need you to come along. Bring your friends too!”

Koulikov admits it is ‘touch and go’ whether or not import Ales Padelek is fit to face Swindon. He has missed the last three games with illness and was not expected to take part in practice last night (Wednesday).

Phantoms boast four of the leading points-scorers in league games - Darius Pliskauskas and Nathan Salem have both piled up 16 so far with Leigh Jamieson and Will Weldon contributing 15 apiece.

Bracknell pair Shaun Thompson (21pts) and Frantisek Bakrlik (20pts) are the most prolific players in the division so far.