Peterborough Phantoms coach Slava Koulikov believes the NIHL National Cup is very much up for grabs as they look to return to winning ways.
Both sides meet in Friday’s first leg at Planet Ice in Peterborough, with the second leg taking place next Wednesday (11th March) to decide the first trophy of the season in the National ranks.
But after a weekend that saw their 11-game unbeaten run end to Telford in the league on Saturday, followed by a loss to Bracknell Bees on Sunday, Koulikov insists it could be a good thing.
“We wanted to win the games at the weekends but in a way, it could turn out to be a positive and give a bit more motivation to get back to winning ways,” the Phantoms coach told the club website.
“When Friday comes around, we can’t think about last weekend or in the run of games with Telford this year, finals are always different.
🏆IT'S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN🏆
— Peterborough Phantoms (@GoPhantoms) February 21, 2020
There are certain things for the coaches to look at, but you draw the line under the other games and move into Friday.
“It’s anyone’s trophy and they’re a very solid team who have a lot of little details right. They’re well organised and Tom Watkins is proving that he’s a very good coach.
“That’s why they’re going to win the league. We’ve done a good job as well this year so its two good teams, two games, everything else goes out of the window, whoever plays their best will win.
“For us, it was good to play them on Saturday to recap the way they play but we have to adjust throughout the game to the situations and read things to do what needs to be done in that moment.”
Phantoms enjoyed a treble cup winning season last year, winning the Autumn Cup, NIHL 1 South Cup and the play-offs so know what it takes to get it over the line on the big occasion.
For Koulikov, in his sixth season with the club, he enjoys the highs naturally and wants his players to also enjoy the challenge of the bigger stage.
But he warns this two-legged affair against the Tigers could be a different beast from Phantoms have experienced in the past.
He added: “Over the six years I’ve been here, we’ve had eight cup finals including playoffs and that speaks for itself how well the team has done over the years.
“When you compete every year and guys are doing such an amazing job, as a coach you enjoy being part of it and being around the guys and seeing them giving their all for the team.
“When it comes to the big stage, you have to enjoy it, play with confidence and leave everything out there. We’ve done and achieved so much in the last year and three quarters with minimal changes to the team, so it comes down to enjoying the final.
“We’d obviously like to win at home – having won the last three trophies on the home second leg – but Telford showed in their semi-final that a first leg lead doesn’t decide the tie because there’s still another 60 minutes after that.
“That being said, we don’t want to wait and start playing in the second leg. We need to focus on doing the right things, compete for every puck and do everything we can on Friday to make good things happen, then we focus on the second leg.”