We caught up with Phantoms Head Coach, Slava Koulikov, about our big return to the ice and also got his thoughts on the coming weekend’s opening week of competitive fixtures.
Saturday night’s opening game in Milton Keynes didn’t go to plan for Slava’s side, as they fell to a 6-1 loss against the MK Lightning. Then, on Sunday night, the Phantoms returned to action at Planet Ice Peterborough for the first time in 546 days with a reverse fixture against MKL. The Phantoms started slowly and found themselves 3-0 behind, before rallying to tie the game 5-5 in regulation. MKL scored the overtime winner on the powerplay, but Slava was happy with his side’s progression across the weekend.
“We’ve had 17 months out, we’ve had a big turnaround in the team and we have a younger team than we did previously. We’ve only had three sessions on the ice back-to-back-to-back on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and then we played Saturday and Sunday. We’ve put a lot of work put in in those five days but we’re relatively pleased with the progression seen on the ice. It wasn’t a great result on Saturday but results aren’t the most important thing in pre-season games. The fitness, tactics, set up of the team all improved and that was seen in the second half of the game on Sunday. All of that will take a few weeks but I’m pleased with where we are after the weekend.
“We can improve on everything: fitness, line combination, tactical plays in all three zones. There’s no chance after such a long layoff that you can say after one weekend that we’ve got everything sorted. There were definitely some positives to take but realistically, everything can be improved on and I have no doubt that we will in the coming weeks and months.” Slava said.
The coming weekend sees the Phantoms head back into competitive action for the first time since March 2020 with a trip to the Basingstoke Bison, before MKL visit Planet Ice Peterborough once again on Sunday.
“Based on what we saw last season from Basingstoke , I think Saturday will be a difficult, high paced, physical game. They play direct hockey so there will be pressure on our defence and the forwards will have to come back and help out a lot, which will improve their fitness levels while they do it, so it’s a positive in a way for us to have a game like this so early. It will be a big test for us but you’d rather play in a competitive game than have an easy ride so I’m sure we’ll be ready after a second week of training.
“I’m expecting another battle, based on what we’ve just seen in the weekend just gone. They’re a good, organised, fast paced team with good goaltending. They’re a well balanced team that have a lot of speed so again it’ll be very competitive. I think it’ll be a close an exciting game and it’s one we’re looking forward to.” Slava concluded.
Tickets to this Sunday’s cup fixture against the Milton Keynes Lightning are on sale now. You can purchase them HERE or via the Planet Ice box office. Doors open at 4:30pm ahead of a 5:30pm face off!