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Thursday, 25 September 2014

Phoenix Rolling 21st - Sheffield Steeldogs

As we head further into September the world or EPL Ice Hockey gathers for another weekend of competitive hockey. Coming off their 3 point weekend prior, the Phoenix faced a tough test with games against the Bison, in Hampshire, and the visit of the Sheffield Steeldogs at home in Altrincham. Saturday's game versus the Basinstoke Bison would be a re-run of the EPL Playoff Final only 5 ish months ago, both teams considered contenders for the EPL title most seasons. Sheffield return to the Ice Dome hoping to emulate their last visit this season when they claimed the War of the Roses cup with a comprehensive victory. Phoenix would be much improved from that weekend but, the question is, how much better? 

The Phoenix took to the road saturday for their first visit to the Bison in what would surely be another addition to the great series of games both clubs enjoy. The Bison, like the Phoenix, tend to play a flowing fast paced kind of game so, they are always good ones to watch. It sounded like a cracker in Bisonland and, for a good run down of the game, read the club's match reports and, Mr Russell's run down of the game over at Banners on the Wall. 

Bison 3 Phoenix 2 - Phoenix

Bison 3 Phoenix 2 - Bison

Coming off the loss in Basingstoke the Phoenix faced the Steeldogs in Altrincham for the second time in a fortnight. Sheffield have been transformed this year, much of that transformation down to the addition of Jeff Legue. For many seasons the Steeldogs have had teamwork at their core but not much cutting edge to make a difference. Retaining Korhun and adding Legue, Sheffield now have that attacking bite which will see them win more games than ever this season. Another sunny sunday greeted both sets of supporters and, after a short delay to faceoff, we were underway. 

First Period: Having played the Steeldogs so recently the Phoenix knew what they were in for. A much better effort was needed and, they got the perfect start! Ben Wood had the puck in the Phoenix zone, who passed up the boards to Adam Walker who then found Robin Kovar in the middle who got a quick shot off on Sedlar and lit the lamp for the home side. The first goal of the game coming at 3min 16sec. The lead lasted just over a minute when Gibson profited from great teamwork to level the game at 4min 30sec. The wheels then fell off for the Phoenix when Jeff Legue scored to put the visitors ahead just 33sec later scoring at 5min 03sec. Phoenix fans were then left silent when Sheffield extended their lead before the 10min mark when Gibson scored his second of the game at 8min 36sec. The Phoenix needed to re-group and score the next goal. As play progressed a late hit on Corson-Heron in the Phoenix zone saw most players on the ice and fans in the stand up in arms and concentrating on that play. Only one player remained alert, Jack Watkins capitalised on the pass from Corson-Heron and remained alert, racing up the win, breaking in on Sedlar and slotting home. A delayed penalty goal timed at 9min 05sec. Despite scoring the Phoenix were still all at sea defensively and allowed Sheffield another goal. With the Steeldogs cycling the puck in the Phoenix zone, Legue picked up the puck and scored a lightning quick wrap around goal. Ryan moving too slowly across his crease to get there in time. Legue's goal timed at 13min 21sec. The Phoenix tried to tighten up on the defensive side of the puck but, the buzzer brought to a close an awful period for the home team. 

Second Period: The first intermission rollicking from Hand must have had an effect, a much improved Phoenix emerged for the second period. The Phoenix were dominant in the second session, Sheffield rarely leaving their own zone. The Phoenix pressed and pressed, heavily outshooting their visitors but came up against a hot goalie in Sedlar, his glove hand excelling. The Phoenix hit the pipework twice and outshot the visitors 19-6 in that period alone. Hockey can be a game of inches and luck, no better example of that than this second period! The Phoenix worked hard but, the perpetually poor powerplay would hurt the home side, the Phoenix had an extended 5 on 3 opportunity but could not find the net. 

Third Period: 20 minutes, more than enough time for the home side to get back into this game. I said on the podcast during the interval that the next goal would be key (ding). Phoenix get it and we could win, Sheffield get it and we were done. Well....I was half right! At 41min 32sec Boothroyd found Hand at the hashmarks and blasted a shot past Sedlar in goal. Excellent start to the final session for the Phoenix. The Phoenix went on the powerplay just past the halfway mark in the period and, while pressing the Sheffield goal, surrendered another turnover to....Legue! The last guy you'd want to give the puck to, Legue raced clear and scored past Ryan short handed, his goal at 52min 48sec. Done and dusted? Well, not quite yet! Just 17sec later the Phoenix got their powerplay working and Adam Walker reduced the arrears again to one goal. The home said laid seige to Sedlar's goal but, Sheffield are a damn hard team to break down. Entering the final minute the Phoenix finally gained the zone and pulled Ryan but, another turnover coughed up the puck to Korhon who scored the empty net goal at 59min 51sec, 

Verdict: Overall a poor poor loss for the Phoenix resulting in a null point weekend. Despite an improved showing in the second period the Phoenix defence continues to worry and turnover the puck too many times. This is an area of the ice the Phoenix need to work on alot and get sorted sooner rather than later. The shot count favours the Phoenix heavily but, credit must go to Sheffield. They are hard to break down and, in this game, had Sedlar in his best showing in the Ice Dome. For many seasons Sheffield have had a hard working gritty team with not enough up front to win games and close out opposition. In retaining Korhon and adding Legue, Sheffield now have the cutting edge in attack to win more games than before. I don't think Sheffield will contend for the league but, they will finish high up the table and threaten a Coventry appearance again! 

Attendance: Slightly down on the Swindon game, i'll guess at 1,000 in the Ice Dome. 


Phoenix 4 - Sheffield 6 - Phoenix
Phoenix 4 - Sheffield 6 - Steeldogs


Friday, 19 September 2014

Phoenix Rolling 14th Sep - Swindon Wildcats

Rosters signed, players arrived, pre-season done and dusted, not it's time for the 9 teams in the EPL to gear up and kick off their assault on the 2014/15 EPL Ice Hockey seasons. The Phoenix, as league champions, come into the season with a target on their back. A new EPL landscape has emerged, the usual suspects will be there or there abouts, your Phoenixes, Bison's, MK's, big spenders Guildford will challenge and, now joined by free spending Telford. This years EPL title will be one of the hardest to win! 

Phoenix opened their EPL campaign with a trip to the hive to take on the Bracknell Bees, consensus through last season seemed to be that the Bees struggled to score. Their summer recruiting does not look to have solved the problem and the game, saturday night, seemed to prove that theory. The Phoenix coming away with a 3-1 victory. 


Bees 1 - Phoenix 3 - Bees
Bees 1 - Phoenix 3 - Phoenix

For the first time in the league fans of the Phoenix and Wildcats arrived at the Altrincham Ice Dome to sunshine and warm temperatures, a bit strange when attending a hockey game! Wildcats came to the Ice Dome with some familiar faces in Lyle, Nell etc...but with some new blood too in Malasinski replacing the 'irreplaceable' Hoog. Time will tell! 

First Period: Phoenix burst to live from the off taking the puck to the Wildcats and, it was the home side who lit the lamp first. Some early pressure lead to a strong shot from Hand on net, which Lyle managed to get the most of, but not all! As the puck trickled behind him James Archer was on hand, driving the net, to roof the free puck. Scoring at 1min 13sec. Phoenix continued to take the fight to the Wildcats getting plenty of shots on Lyle but, finding Lyle more than equal. No other goals were scored but, former Phoenix captain Kenton Smith talked his way into a mis-conduct penalty after an offside decision. 

Second Period: While Swindon were edging back into the game the Phoenix continued to edge the play. The visitors were getting more success in moving Fone and creating chances, their forward getting their legs going and stretching the Phoenix defence. The home side would score again though, when Frankie Bakrlik took a couple of quick steps and firing off a shot to Lyle's surprise. The Phoenix second goal coming at 27min 37sec. Swindon kept at it though and, after a tangle in front of the Phoenix net. Robin Kovar was called for tripping putting the visitors on the powerplay. It was a great powerplay actually, really quick, stretching the Phoenix D pulling them out of place, and creating the opening for Malasinski to score at 38min 39sec. Swidnon ending the period in control. 

Third Period: It seemed like the Swindon goal at the end of the second spurred them on in the third. Just 31sec into the final session and the Wildcats had tied the game. Oliver Betteridge scoring at 40min 31sec. Phoenix could have let that moment overrun them but, they re-grouped and dug deep. Working hard to create chances and go toe to toe with the Wildcats the hard work was finally rewarded. After some good pressure in the Wildcats zone moving the visitors around the zone, Michal Psurny pounced on a loose puck and forced home the goal of Lyle's skate. Giving the Phoenix the lead at 42min 38sec. Swindon were coming into the game more and more as the Phoenix looked to tire. With tired leg's mistakes happen and a turnover in the Wildcats zone led to the puck finding Nell on their own blue line who raced away, deked Fone and roof the puck to tie the game once again, superb goal! Their 3rd timed at 54min 50sec. Both sides tried to find a winner but none came, sending the game into Overtime. 

Overtime: With more space available on the ice both teams played some intense end to end hockey. Both Lyle and Fone standing tall and repelling all that came against them. For the last 90sec the Phoenix did go on the powerplay but were not able to score a winner. 

Penalties: Swindon winning on penalty shots, scorers Kostal and Malasinski, Phoenix scorer Archer. 

Verdict: Which ever way you cut it it is disappointing to loose on penalty shots. Overall it was an even but very entertaining game, both teams have quality on the ice. The Phoenix had the first half of the game, Wildcats the second half. Overtime didn't really produce much and Penalty Shots are a lottery. What disappointed me about the Phoenix in the PS was, including Archer who scored, no one seemed to have full control of the puck going into the net. Swindon took theirs well, making Fone go post to post and then roofing it. So, disappointed to loose but, 3pts from 4 in the first league weekend? I'll take that! The Phoenix were much improved when compared to their WOTR loss to Sheffield the weekend before. They will be much improved again by the time the Steeldogs roll into town this sunday! 

Phoenix 3 Wildcats 4 APS - Phoenix

Phoeni 3 Wildcats 4 APS - Wildcats

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Friday, 12 September 2014

The Phoenix Rising - Part 7 The Final Pieces

The final pieces of the Phoenix, version 2014/15 are in place. The Phoenix announced their import defenceman and final Brit player to complete the roster in Swedish man Johan Burlin and Minators graduate Jarred Dickinson. 

Phoenix Press Release

Johan Burlin:  
The 25 year old Swede comes to the Phoenix having played last season with Fassa in the Italian league. Despite his young age Burlin has played across Europe gaining experience in Germany/Russia/Italy and, of course, Sweeden. At 6ft 3 Burlin is a big guy but, also a guy who can put up the points. In Germany and Italy he managed nearly a point every other game and slightly less in his time in his home country in Sweeden. He will be expected to ice alot of minutes in the EPL and help the younger Brit's on D with development. While he may not have the experience when compared to the guy he replaces, Burlin has age on his side and desire. 

Jarred Dickinson:  
The last player announced is Jarred Dickinson, a player not unfamiliar to Phoenix fans. Dickinson has been a Minators regular who is now making the step up to the EPL senior side. The 19 year old joins as one of the final pieces of the Phoenix forward line, he will not see lots of minutes per game but will be expected to contribute and work hard when he does ice. The step up to the EPL side comes as Jarred scored 30 points of 24 NIHL games last year. So good promise, he needs to work hard to deliver now!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Phoenix v Steeldogs War of the Roses 2014

So...it is time.....time to properly dust off The Angry Budgie and get back into the swing of the EPIHL season 2014/15. The current EPL champions take to the ice with the majority of last seasons title winning side in tact which a few tweaks and additions. The annual War of the Roses clash marks the season start for the Phoenix, while the Steeldogs have already been in action with an extended pre-season featuring a visit to France and the Bradfield Brewery cup series against the Telford Tigers. 

Last season the Dogs came out top across the two legs winning the WOTR cup and the Phoenix went on to win the EPL title. Swings and roundabouts ey? ;) 

On a sunny afternoon in Altrincham, hockey fans from Manchester and Sheffield assembled at the Ice Dome once again to see in the start of Ice Hockey in Altrincham. Friendships renewed, seats taken up, it was time to concentrate on the ice and enjoy some hockey after a long summer! 

First Period: It is fairly obvious that, on paper, the Phoenix team is the stronger of the two squads but, in reality we all know the Dogs are a tough nut to crack. For his faults, which are numerous, Payette has his roster working very very hard, drilled well, and who are very much, a sum greater than the parts kind of team. The early stages of the first period were testament to this, the Phoenix dominated possession and chances but, could not put quality puck on net to test Sedlar. Sheffield working hard preventing this and, some obvious rust in the Phoenix forward play mean an early goal for the home side wasn't on the cards. So, in some ways, it was not to surprising the Steeldogs took the lead. Sheffield pounced on a neutral zone turnover to take the lead when Payette set up Jeff Legue for the Steeldogs first of the night, timed 11min 40sec. Sheffield continued to soak up the Phoenix pressure and look to counter on the break or any mistake. The home fans were silenced once again when Lubomir Korhon doubled the visitors lead at 15min 29sec. Phoenix trials on the powerplay were evident again when they struggled to make the extra skater pay, it was on one of these PP's that Sheffield forced a turnover and Legue raced away to score an excellent goal at 18min 03sec. That was a big goal, Sheffield were able to ride out the period and make it to the buzzer 3 goals to the good despite being outshot 2 to 1 by the Phoenix. 

Second Period: The Phoenix needed a good start to the second period and, they got it. 88 sec in and Michal Psurny was in the right place at the right time to score a rebound after Bakrlik had applied some pressure to the Phoenix net. The home side on the board the Phoenix looked to make a move on the Sheffield goal. With the Phoenix killing a powerplay the Steeldogs pressured the Phoenix zone picking up a delayed penalty, in the subsequent play Korhon got his second of the night at 25min 38sec restoring the Steeldogs 3 goal advantage. Sheffield extended their lead a few minutes later when Elliot scored the visitors 5th of the night at 35min exactly. The hill Phoenix were facing had now become a mountain! The Phoenix tried hard to force a way back into the game but, were huffing and puffing alot with little reward. A combination of rustyness and lack of cohesion the killer, combined with Sheffield's excellent D work meant the period ended with the Dogs firmly in control. Despite, again, being outshot by their hosts. 

Third Period: With the tie effectively over the third period saw a bit of edginess creep into the play. A fair few handbags were brought out but no out and out aggression spilled over....sadly! Sheffield were again on the defective for the most part with the Phoenix struggling to convert their numerous chances. In fact the period ended with the Phoenix outshooting the Dogs 20 to 4!!! The accuracy just wasn't there for the home side and, Sedlar was more than equal to the shots. One goal was scored and it was the Dogs who got it. With the Phoenix on the PP Kovar was caught on the blue line and, a cross ice pass was intercepted by Korhon who raced up ice and scored a fantastic breakaway goal at 47min 29sec topping off a great hatrick performance. Despite some last pressure from the Phoenix the Dogs ran out 6-1 winners on the night and 9-4 on aggregate retaining the WOTR trophy. 

Verdict: Absolutely no issues with the result for me. The Dogs longer pre-season told, they looked slicker, more up-to-speed than the Phoenix. The home side looked to have superior quality but, were so rusty in their play. In defence and especially in front of goal. Too many simple shots were just not making Sedlar work hard enough, the Phoenix were not moving him to create scoring chances. Of course, as a Phoenix fan, I would prefer we won a trophy that was on offer but, in the scheme of things WOTR does not give us league points. Plus, until we change our pre-season schedule, WOTR will always be difficult for the Phoenix to win. The new additions to the roster looked good, I was impressed with Chamberlain and Thompson. New import D Burlin looked impressive, a big guy who is not afraid to use his size. Worryingly he did not ice the 2nd and 3rd periods, hopefully it will not be a serious injury! Losing your import D after the 1st period did not help in this game at all! 

Attendance: A good crowd filled the Ice Dome, i'll guess at 1,200 in. 

War of the Roses 1st Leg, Sheffield and Manchester

War of the Roses 2nd Leg, Manchester and Sheffield


Friday, 8 August 2014

The Phoenix Rising - Part 6 Shirt Launch and a few surprises!

The annual trip to the Cresta Court hotel in Altrincham saw the Phoenix release their new shirts for the 14/15 campaign. The event also gave the club the opportunity to announce two player signings at the same time. So, we have new League home/away shirts, Cup home/away shirts and a new warm up shirt. I like the league and warm up shirts, as they show a return to a more simple design than we have been used to from the Phoenix. The cup shirts are a bit more 'out there'. I have never considered buying a cup shirt and......I still wont get one! The home cup shirt is not good, the away is passable as the black drowns out the purple tyre mark!! For me, it'll be either the home or away league shirt again. For the first time in ages I do like the home shirt but, I do like the black/blue we now use for the away shirt alot! Again, it will depend on how they look in person. As for the player announcements, two big surprises! 

Phoenix Press Release

Shaun Thompson: 
Being based up north the Phoenix can suffer in trying to tempt southern based players to sign for up here. Thompson is a player I have admired from afar and, was genuinely surprised when his name was read out and he walked past me! Having played the past few seasons with the Bees, Thompson has always stood out as a star on that roster. So, to capture him and bring him north is a big coup for the Phoenix. Scoring at over a point per game for the Bees, going onto the Phoenix 1st or 2nd line I expect Thompson to have one of his best seasons in his career. I can also see his arrival lifting the other Brit forwards and improving the team as a whole! Welcome to Manchester Shaun! 

Joe Graham:  
This was a name Phoenix fans did not expect to return for the Phoenix. I will be honest, I was one of the Phoenix fans who thought we could improve on Joe. But, he is back for another season and, more importantly, Tony Hand saw enough in him to bring him back! His first half of the season saw him struggle and probably tarnish his overall year but, he did improve in the second half of the season. It is that improvement that Tony saw and warranted another contract. He has the tools to become a solid D man in the EPL, I just hope he irons out the odd silly mistake or dumb play that blighted his 13/14 season. The potential is there and, with Tony taking more of a back seat this year, Joe will benefit from having the extra push from him behind the bench. So, happy to see you back Joe, now go out there and prove the doubters wrong! Including me!


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

The Phoenix Rising - Part 5 One they wanted, One they expected!

Sorry everyone, I must apologise over how long it is taking me to get these post's online. Real life has been in the way over the past few weeks, The Angry Budgie has just been so busy. It has now quietened down a little so I can finally get round to catching up on Phoenix news! Today's post is a good un, it sees the news that one of the Phoenix most productive players has returned for another season! As the title says, this post is one they wanted and one they expected! 

Phoenix Press Release

Michal Psurny: 
First, the one they wanted! If you spoke to any Phoenix fan at the end of the season, the first name most would have wanted back was, that man from Czech Republic...Michal Psurny. Michal had a fantastic year with the Phoenix during 13/14, easily his best in his career scoring 104 points. In his two seasons with the Phoenix Michael has now one the playoff trophy and a league title. Anchoring the top line alongside Tony Hand and James Archer Psurny had the space and time to do what he does best, snipe opposition goals. One of the most talented players to pull on a Phoenix jersey, Psurny has toughness and excellent stick handling skills. A firm fan favourite, not just because of his goals but, his personality and temperament too. A thoroughly nice bloke! Phoenix fans wanted him back, some were worried after Bakrlik and Kovar were announced, thinking 'we never retain so many imports' so news of his return was greeted with joy. With the prospect of Tony Hand scaling back on the number of games he will play this season, Psurny's skill is needed now more than ever. If theres one player who can step it up and produce when needed, it's Psurny! All together now..........Who's that man from Czech Republic........ 


James Neil:
  
Saying, one they expected, in relation to James Neil sounds like a slight against him as a player. It is not meant that way at all! Entering his 6th season in Manchester James Neil is a player who forms the solid foundations of a good team. 13/14 was another good year for James, he will never pull up trees or light up the ice but, in his defencive role, he is not required to. James goes about his job, on the ice, in a quiet understated way. Off the ice, he is different! Another fan favourite, a player who always makes time to talk to anyone and who really get's along with the fans at off ice events. He could be considered a 'face of the franchise' kind of guy! It takes many parts to build a successful team, James Neil is a very important part of the Phoenix machine!


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Phoenix Rising - Part 4 Young Guns Return

The Phoenix continue their re-build by added two of the EPL's promising young players in Jack Watkins and Jacob Corson-Heron. Both guys who had quiet years for the Phoenix last season but, improved over the course of the season. Mainly playing on the third line Jack and Jacob worked hard with each shift they got and, towards the end of the season, saw increased ice time as a result. Every team needs young British talent on the roster, those youngsters will always play on the 2nd or 3rd lines. Jack and Jacob's return is another part of last seasons championship winning team locked up. 

Phoenix Press Release

Jacob Corson-Heron 
Jacob spent the early part of the season on the bench or seeing little ice time. Being a small player he did find life in the EPL a little tough this past season but, as the season passed, so did his confidence, performance and ice time. While Jacob only scored 3 points for his season, the majority of the fan base were happy with him. His performances in the title run in and the playoffs sold many fans on Jacob. He is a very quick winger, willing to get stuck in on plays with much bigger opposition, sometimes without reward. But, that is the type of play that fans and coaches see, Tony must have been pleased to sign him up for another season! 

Jack Watkins 
Jack came to the Phoenix to play games and play with Tony Hand. After a few years in the EIHL with Dundee/Hull and a few games for Coventry. Jack returned to the league he last saw in 2010/11 when he iced for the Telford Tigers. Jack has a similar game to Jacob but there is a bit more to him. A bigger guy Jack seemed to handle the rough and tumble of the EPL better than Jacob to begin with. Finishing with 7gls and 8asst Jack played on the Phoenix 3rd line and worked well with the other guys. A fan favourite and well liked amongst the Phoenix roster his return is another good addition to the squad.