EPL preview: Koulikov cranks up the pressure on the Tigers

Peterborough Phantoms’ boss Slava Koulikov believes Telford Tigers are under pressure after losing their opening game in the EPL play-offs.

The Tigers lost 3-0 at home to Guildford Flames on Wednesday, while the Phantoms got off to a perfect start with a 12-0 victory over Sheffield Steeldogs and Koulikov is keen to take advantage when the two teams meet on Saturday.

“Telford are now in a pressure situation – I know they will not want to lose their first two play-off games at home,” he told Peterborough Today.

“It would not be impossible for them to qualify for the finals if that did happen, but it would obviously make it very tough.

“Our focus is just on our own performances and results, though. We need to ensure we deliver for the full sixty minutes in every game.”

Tom Watkins has admitted he was disappointed with Telford’s slow start against the Flames and has urged his team to come out firing against the Phantoms.

The visitors are yet to win in Telford this season, but Watkins has warned his side to be wary of the threat posed by Koulikov’s team.

“A good start is so important and you always want to play with a lead,” he said. “You want to come out of the blocks and get ahead. We didn’t do that on Wednesday night.

“In the play-offs you’ve got to play with intensity and if a defender keeps getting finished on physically, he will feel like he’s got less time to make things happen.

“We’ve got to be on our toes in that respect. It was disappointing that we didn’t impose ourselves early enough, especially at home.

“If we play with a heavy forecheck, we get our fans involved with a bit more noise and atmosphere.

“We’ve got to change our mindset a little bit, and for Saturday’s game that is one way we’ve got to start.”

Swindon forward Max Birbraer has refused to write off the Wildcats’ play-off chances despite losing their first game 5-1 against MK Lightning.

The Wildcats host Hull Pirates on Saturday before visiting Basingstoke Bison the following day, and Birbraer believes his team can still reach the final four weekend at Coventry.

“It was difficult to lose to Milton Keynes on Wednesday, but it isn’t the end of the world as there is still a lot of hockey to go,” he told the Swindon Advertiser.

“It was a crash course in how to play play-off hockey, because that was the hardest match we have in the group out of the six games.

“To be honest we were taught a lesson – it showed us that we can’t make mistakes without being punished for them.

“Now we look forward to learning from it and shrinking down the number of mistakes that we make.

“It’s a learning curve for the younger guys we have in the squad. We have five games now to produce the goods.

“We have a nothing-to-lose attitude, because it is the last piece of silverware up for grabs.

“We need to get something from each of the last five games, especially Hull Pirates on Saturday which is almost a must-win game for us now.”

WEEKEND FIXTURES

Saturday

Guildford Flames v Sheffield Steeldogs
MK Lightning v Basingstoke Bison
Swindon Wildcats v Hull Pirates
Telford Tigers v Peterborough Phantoms

Sunday

Basingstoke Bison v Swindon Wildcats
Hull Pirates v MK Lightning
Peterborough Phantoms v Guildford Flames
Sheffield Steeldogs v Telford Tigers

(Image permission: Tony Sargent)

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