Phan­toms can build on a pleas­ing start says Slava

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Sport - By Mark Plum­mer ICE HOCKEY COR­RE­SPON­DENT

Phan­toms coach Slava Koulikov be­lieves his team have given them­selves solid foun­da­tions on which to build a challenge for English Premier League suc­cess. The city club have won half of their open­ing six games of the newsea­son– nomean­feat con­sid­er­ing they faced backto- back week­ends against reign­ing cham­pi­ons Bas­ingstoke and ti­tle favourites Mil­ton Keynes.

Two of the club’s three vic­to­ries so far ar­rived against the Bi­son to fol­low up a 6-1 drub­bing of Swin­don in their first home out­ing.

Phan­toms have lost home an­d­away­toarch-ri­vals Mil­ton Keynes af­ter also slip­ping up in­lack­lus­trestyle on­theopen­ing night of the cam­paign in Sh­effield.

Koulikov said: “To reach the end of Septem­ber with a 50 per cent win rate is pleas­ing.

“We­haveprob­a­bly hadthe tough­est start of any team in the league with top sides like Bas­ingstoke and Mil­ton Keynes in suc­ces­sive week­ends.

“We want to win ev­ery game, but we know that is not re­al­is­tic forus­right­now. How­ever, we have com­peted well in five of our six games so far and the only dis­ap­point­ment for me is the per­for­mance on the open­ing night in Sh­effield when­weshould­have­bat­tleda lot harder to get a re­sult.

“We are still get­ting our iden­tity as a team, and I hope and be­lieve there is a lot more to come from my guys.”

Phan­toms’ pleas­ing start haslift­edthemto­fourth­place in the early-sea­son stand­ings, but things are not about to get any eas­ier this week­end.

Koulikov’s men face two of the three teams cur­rently above them as they travel to Hull onSatur­day (5.30pm) be­fore en­ter­tain­ing Telford on Sun­day (5.30pm).

Both of those sides have won­five­oftheir­first­six­clashes with the Pi­rates be­ing sur­prise pack­ages in just their sec­ond sea­son, while Telford look strong con­tenders to win back­theti­tle they last lifted in 2014/15. Phan­toms prob­a­bly wish they could play reign­ing cham­pi­ons Bas­ingstoke in ev­ery game.

Slava Koulikov’s men fol­lowed up a fine home tri­umph against Bi­son by claim­ing their scalp for the sec­ond time in six days courtesy of a down-to-the-wire suc­cess last Saturday night.

Marc Levers pro­vided the de­ci­sive strike as Phan­toms tri­umphed fol­low­ing a penalty shoot-out that went to sud­den death with net­min­der Ja­nis Auzins keep­ing out three of the four Bas­ingstoke ef­forts he faced.

Phan­toms had ear­lier seen a two- goal cush­ion wiped out in the fi­nal pe­riod, but­theystood­strong­to­claim their first away point of the sea­son at the end of reg­u­la­tion time.

And, fol­low­ing a blank over­time and a penal­ties suc­cess, it quickly be­camean open­ing road win of 2016/17.

In­cred­i­bly the shoot-out was in­ter­rupted by a punchup as Phan­toms giant Petr Stepanek traded blows with Bi­son man Ciaran Long.

Both play­ers re­ceived game penal­ties for their parts in a skir­mish trig­gered whenStepanek­col­lid­ed­with home net­min­der To­mas Hi­adlovskyaftersee­inghis­penalty saved.

Dar­ius Pliskauskas was also de­nied by Hi­adlovsky af­ter Ales Padelek had put away Phan­toms’ first ef­fort and it was a sim­i­lar story at the other end where Ja­nis Auzins de­nied Long and Ivan Antonov af­ter be­ing beaten by Petr Polodna.

Levers then struck with Phan­toms’ f i rst sud­den­death ef­fort and that proved to be de­ci­sive as Auzins de­nied Aaron Con­nolly.

Stepanek’ss­crap­com­pleted an ac­tion-packed night in which the Czech im­port also cre­ated two of the Phan­toms goals and scored the other.

Ales Padelek ce­len­brates scor­ing against MK Lightning.

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