The latest weekend of NIHL National action is upon up as the Phantoms take on the Leeds Chiefs and Telford Tigers. Both games will count towards the cup for the Phantoms, making it an important weekend with top spot in the group still up for grabs.
PHANTOMS TEAM NEWS
Phantoms will once again be without defensive pair Scott Robson and Bradley Bowering through injury, although both are making strides to return to fitness with a view to returning to the line-up in the coming weeks.
In attack, Glenn Billing and Conor Pollard will be missing due to injury, meaning Slava Koulikov will have to shake up his forward lines for the week ahead.
Nottingham Panthers pair Joe Hazeldine and Josh Tetlow will ice on Saturday, filling the spots vacated by Robson and Bowering.
The Chiefs are currently bottom of the NIHL National, with four wins in the 19 games they have played so far this season. They had two games last weekend, a 3-0 defeat against the Telford Tigers and a 4-2 loss to MK Lightning.
The Chiefs have been enduring similar problems to the Phantoms in recent weeks with a number of players missing games through injury. Adam Barnes and Lewis Baldwin missed last Saturday through illness and injury respectively but returned to the line-up on Sunday and should feature this week.
Bobby Streetly is out, he’s suffered a serious upper body injury which may keep him out for a long period of time. Steve Duncombe didn’t play in Sunday’s loss to MKL, and it is not yet known whether he’ll be fit to face the Phantoms.
Andres Kopstals picked up a knock in the warmup against Telford last weekend and missed both games across the weekend as a result. He could be in contention to make a return this week, but Sam Zajac has said he won’t push players if they are not ready.
Sam Zajac brings a wealth of experience to the Chiefs’ blue line. He has experience in the Elite League and has scored a good number of points from defence in each season he’s played. The Chiefs job is his first as a head coach, and he’ll be looking to kick start a strong second half of the season to try and move his side up the table.
Telford currently sit top of the NIHL National table, three points clear of Swindon. Both Telford and Phantoms could come top of the NIHL National Cup group, making Sunday’s game an important one for both sides.
After a couple of weeks of being short benched, Telford now have most of their main players back in the line-up.
Last Sunday, they were missing vastly experienced defenceman, Jonathan Weaver, and their backup goaltender, Massimo Agostini.
Tigers captain Jason Silverthorn is now classed as a British trained player, which means he could line up alongside import forward Dominik Florian. Florian has continued his strong start to the season, now sitting on 15 goals and 21 assists in 21 games.
Tom Watkins is defying the odds on the bench in Telford this year. His side were fancied by few as title contenders, but with his side sitting top of the league after 21 games, it would seem that the title challenge is well and truly on.
He played a number of years of his career in Telford and has been the coach since 2010. He has also worked with Slava Koulikov in the GB set up.
You can look at the team and see they’re bottom of the league. We’re on home ice even though it’s an away game. But, none of this matters if we don’t play well. The guys weren’t ready to play our hockey against Bracknell on Saturday. They were ready to play, but not in the way we needed to play to win. You can’t think about the name on the front of the jersey, we need to make sure we prepare for every game the same because it only takes a little bit of switching off and you start chasing games.
We set targets inside the locker room and we said the last three games prior to these in the cup were crucial and we won all three. But I think the most important thing now is to win the points for the league, we’re third in the league but Bison and Steeldogs are close behind. So, now we’ve qualified for the cups, the points are more important for the league. We want to close the gap on the top two so to do this, you’ve got to win games.
It’ll be a very tough game in Telford. They don’t lose a lot and that’s why they’re top of the league. They don’t lose much, but there’s no team in the league that can’t be beaten. There’s no one of the calibre of the Telford team who walked the league in the EPL a few years ago, no one is four or five levels ahead of everyone like they were. It’ll be a good game; we’re not frightened to go there and play our game. It’s a normal road game, we do this every weekend and we just have to go and play our road game, not give them any respect and stay switched on.
They average five goals a game scored and three conceded. It shows they have the right balance in the team, starting with the goaltending and moving forward. They have a well-rounded team and a good coach and that shows in the stats. That’s how teams show their quality, in their stats, and all of the stats show why they are in first place.
With Saturday’s ‘away’ game being played in our own rink, there is no bus travel for this fixture. The game isn’t covered by season tickets, but season ticket holders will receive discounted entry to the game. For more information including ticket prices, click HERE!
There will be no live stream on Saturday night, so the best place to catch the action is at the rink, or on Twitter @GoPhantoms, where live match updates will run as normal.
MATCH NIGHT COMPETITIONS
50/50 tickets are £1 for 1, £2 for 3 or £5 for 10.
This week’s ‘shirt off your back’ is #29 Will Weldon. Tickets are £1 for 1, £2 for 3 and £5 for 10. Be sure to see one of our ticket sellers to be in with a chance to win!
Puck It and Chuck a Duck won’t take place this week, with the game being classed as an away fixture.