The Angry Budgie Live

Monday, 17 November 2014

Phoenix Rolling - 9th November Basingstoke Bison

The Phoenix were continuing to struggle in the league, coming into last weekend, I believe, the Phoenix were on a 6 game losing streak coming into the weekends action. A run simply not good enough for the current league champions and, a run, which lead to the Phoenix falling to 8th place in the EPL table. Saturday's away game to basement club Bracknell Bees would offer relief....right? 

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

Sadly not, despite dominating possession and shots, the Phoenix only registered one goal from around 45 shots. As Tony Hand mentions on the match report that, is simply not good enough! So the worry and rot continues, I must admit, this result saw me come down on the team hard. The home game against the Bison sunday looked bleak. With our current form we would get hammered? Against a tough hard working defence the Phoenix would need to sharpen up and sharpen up quick. 

Well.......the fight back has to begin somehwere......why not against the Bison? 

First Period: The Phoenix came out fighting at the start of the first period. They looked to be passing well and were pressing the Bison early on. The game took up the usual pattern when the Phoenix play the Bison (in Altrincham at least) where the home side retain much of the puck and take more of the shots but, struggle to score. The Bison were given some breakaway chances forcing Fone into some early highlight reel saves. It would be one of those breakaways that would give the Bison the lead. After soaking up some Phoenix pressure, the Bison forced the turnover, Wales found Karpov who raced free to beat Fone. Bison taking the lead at 11min 29sec. Around a minute later the Bison had the puck in the Phoenix net, only for referee Miller to washout (rightly) the goal. At this point things didn't look good for Phoenix. Bison were beginning to control the game and, the home side looked deflated. Soon after the Bison did score a good second goal to extend their lead. At 13min 45 Muzzy Wales extended the visitors advantage and, the home fans fell quiet. There were no futher goals in the first period and the wind looked to have been taken right from the Phoenix sails. A big intermission and turnaround was needed. 

Second Period: What ever coach Hand said in that locker room worked miracles. The Phoenix came out in the second period with such renewed determination and aggression. Check's were being finished, Bison players pressed as the Phoenix controlled the early stages once again. The pressure began to toll as the Bison ran into penalty trouble. With the man advantage the Phoenix PP unit went to work and, Robin Kovar got the home side on the board at 26min 53sec. Planting himself on the net, finally!!!! Kovar forced home a rebound to light the lamp. The Phoenix did it again less than 2 minutes later when, again on the PP, Frankie Bakrlik picked up the puck and unleashed a piledriver of a shot to the top corner, no stopping that one! The game levelled at 28min 25sec. The Bison managed to re-group after they returned to full strength and, with their first attack into the Phoenix zone, took the lead once more through Ciaran Long at 29min 57sec. In a franetic portion of the game the Phoenix regained parity when that 'Man from the Czech Republic' got his first goal on home ice since opening night. Michal Psurny on hand to score at 30min 46sec. The scoreline remained 3-3 throughout the remainder of the period as the buzzer sounded to bring to an end a great period of hockey. 

Third Period: As the third period began, Frankie Bakrlik took a suspicious high sticking penalty and the Phoenix went on the penalty kill. It was during the PK where Fone managed to make a save and push the puck out to Joe Graham who, sent the puck up ice to Tony Hand. Thanks to a slip by the Bison defenceman, Hand was in on Skinns on his own. With time to spare, Hand wound up and unleashed an unstoppable shot to give the Phoenix their first lead in the game. That shorthanded goal scored at 42min 17sec. This goal really lifted the Phoenix and the Bison were being put under severe pressure. The home side looked hungry, looked in control and, more importantly, looked lethal. The home side extended their lead a few minutes later when, Adam Walker was on hand to slot through Skinns 5-hole to score at 45min 50sec. The Phoenix scored two devastating goals just over a minute apart to close out the game. First, Michal Psurny scored his second of the night at 52min 10sec then, at 53min 23sec Ben Wood scored the highlight goal of the night. Pushed into forward positions due to Jacob's injury, Ben took the puck and broke inside to the hash marks, then pulled a lovely deke on Skinns to then roof the puck and send the home fans into raptures. A truly superb goal from one of the Phoenix unheralded players. With the clock winding down, the Phoenix found time for one more and, a hattrick goal for Michal Psurny. The Czech sniper was found free on goal by Tony Hand to round of a superb and much needed hatty, the final goal of the game coming at 57min 47sec. 

Verdict: A huge huge win for the Phoenix, not only in terms of the points. But for the performance and home fans too. Wins at the Ice Dome have been hard to come by in league action so far so, a win, a big win, and a win against a title rival was much needed! For me the game can be broken down quite easily: 
1st Period, Phoenix looked ok and improved over recent games. Pressing the Bison all over the ice but, did look to drop heads after the Bison took the lead. 
2nd Period, After being read the riot act the Phoenix came out determined in the second period. A bit wrecking ball the Bison were bludgeoned into submission and the Phoenix hauled themselves back into the game. 
3rd Period, Phoenix continued their efforts and, with more control (so less wrecking ball) coupled with the Bison losing their discipline, meant the Phoenix ran up the score for a deserved win. 

Attendance: A good crowd in the Dome, 1,000. 

Phoenix 8 Bison 3 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 8 Bison 3 - Bison Article

Phoenix TV:

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Phoenix Rolling - 30th October Peterborough Phantoms

Thursday night saw the Phoenix take to the ice for a league meeting with the Peterborough Phantoms, the last time these two teams met the Phoenix skated out 3-2 winners thanks to a MOM performance from James Archer. Going into the game the Phoenix were still struggling with form, especially on home ice and, were missing James Archer who was still out through injury. Thankfully Jacob Corson-Heron was out warming up and would take to the ice alleviating some of the injury worries across the Phoenix roster. 

Phantoms are sitting above the Phoenix in the league placings and are a whole different team to Phantoms teams of past season. They have much stronger depth and better goaltending. Both reasons for the great start to their league campaign. 

First Period: On a warm late October night the Ice Dome was blumin freezing! Lots of misted plexi glass and fog hanging over the ice, perfectly apt for a Halloween game! The Phantoms faced the Phoenix and the puck was dropped on a rare midweek game in Altrincham. It seemed like the midweek game and strange conditions had spooked the Phoenix as, from the off, they came out flat. There looked to be little drive from the home side, poor passing and turnovers. All of which lead to, un-surprisingly, a goal for the Phantoms. While on the powerplay the Phantoms worked the puck quickly around the zone to Bebris who slotted past Steve Fone, scoring at 1min 52sec. The goal did not spark anything in the home side as the Phoenix continued to toil and struggle. The Phantoms were comfortable defending their zone and moved with ease through centre ice into the Phoenix zone. The atmosphere was effectively killed after just 6 minutes when the Phantoms doubled their lead. Berbis getting his second at 6min 27sec. It was so strange sitting in the stands watching the Phoenix. After last sunday's excellent performance, this was a world away. Chalk and cheese, vice versa, ying/yang, many other phrases could be used! The misery was extended when Luke Ferrara got the Phantoms third at 16min 26sec. As a home fan, this was painful to watch. Just nothing has happening for the Phoenix, nothing at all. The gloom was lifted somewhat when Adam Walker was able to deflect a shot from Hand past Auzins to finally get the home side on the board. A deft little touch, it was well taken. A small chink of light in what was a dire first period! 

Second Period: After, what must have been a tense Phoenix locker room during the first interval, both teams emerged for the second period. Phoenix had a low base to improve from but still, mistakes were being made. The performance improved a little but, too many things were still off. Poor passing, poor powerplay, defensive turnovers all meant the Phoenix continued to struggle. The Phantoms, being 3-1 up just had to play the perfect road game, contain the opposition and luck to capitalist on any turnovers and breakouts. They did this perfectly and the second period ended scoreless. 

Third Period: So, one more period to go, two goals needed for the home side. Plenty of time right? There was a bit more urgency about the Phoenix play in the period but, even so, it was still a far cry from sunday night. Robin Kovar reduced the arrears to one goal early in the third period when he scored at 43min 30sec. The game became more competitive after the goal as the Phantoms looked to stiffel and resurgence from the home side. As the crowd slowly lifted following the goal the Phantoms were able to deflate them once again just past the half way mark of the period. Luke Ferrara getting his second of the game at 51min 15sec making the scores 4-2 Phantoms. With the game looking lost it was almost a surprise when the Phoenix hit back, Hand breaking up the wing, with Psurny in pursuit on the opposite wing. Hand unleashed a shot right through Auzins, lifting the Phoenix to within one again at 53min 13sec. Made all the more remarkable as it was a short handed goal too. Despite their being only one goal in the game, the Phoenix could not snap out of their poor play and, as the buzzer sounded, were consigned to another home defeat. 

Verdict: Cannot fault the result, if im brutally honest, I think the scoreline flattered us a little. Make no bones about it, the Phoenix were poor! Completely flat performance, awful static powerplay, I cannot single one player out unfortunatly. I think Fone was un-lucky to have been replaced during the first period as, the team infront were hardly helping! James Neil deserved his MOM as he, often looked our best player going forward! Bakrlik and Kovar still look to be struggling playing on the same line. Although today they did pass to each other a bit more! Psurny is still way off his form since arriving in Altrincham. Tony, well, he is still the best player this country has ever produced but, this was a terrible performance from him. Despite the goal, his passing was poor, and some decision making was baffling! Just terrible all round, if you hadn't guessed! Credit must go to Peterborough though, they played a great road game and deserved the win! 

For the Phoenix, November is now a huge huge month.Things need to change drastically, performances need to be strung together. If not, we are destined for mid-table mediocrity and a terrible title defence. We have the talent going forward and, two strong netminders, team defence is the key for me. It has to be improved massively and now! 

Attendance: A bit poor actually,, mid week games are never great, perhaps most fans knew the result already? Spooky indeed! I'll guess at around 800 in the Dome. 

Phoenix 3 Phantoms 4 - Phoenix Article

Phoenix 3 Phantoms 4 - Phantoms Article

Phoenix TV:

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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Phoenix Rolling Cup Special - 19th October Blackburn Hawks

Another weekend in the books, a mixed weekend for the Phoenix, both in terms of the fixtures themselves and the results! Saturday saw the Phoenix make their second trip down to Hampshire to face the Bison, before returning to the Ice Dome for the first Lancashire derby, when they took on the Blackburn Hawks at the Ice Dome. 

Saturday's trip to Bisonland was an EPL fixture and, saw the Phoenix edged out in another close encounter. This time coming home on the wrong side of a 7 goal thriller, losing to the Bison 4-3. Club match reports below and, if you fancy a fan take on things, head on over to Banners on the Wall. 

Bison 4 Phoenix 3 - Bison Article

Bison 4 Phoenix 3 - Phoenix Article

As for sunday nights game, this was a fixture I had been looking forward to ever since the details of the new Cup competition were announced. Reasons why? This dates back to my birth! My mum was physio for the original Trafford Metro's/Altrincham Aces back when the converted Ringway aircraft hangar used to sit on Devonshire Road. From birth I was taken to Metro's/Ace's games and as I grew, the derby games against the Hawks were some of the best games I saw growing up. Seeing the likes of Oleg Sinkov, Rick Ferra, Claud Dumas putting up ridiculous numbers will live long in my memory. Being around 9-10 or 11 when these games were on, I always remember the Ice Rink being packed, thinking wow, there are thousands in here, when it was probably only a few hundred. The old barn would be packed, awesome atmosphere. Those games against the Hawks will stay with me forever. So the arrival of the Hawks was something I had been looking forward to. 

Having said all that, it would still be an EPL team taking on a NIHL team but, Hawks were better than the Stars right? 

I will admit to knowing little about the Hawks current roster, which made the build up all the more exciting. A big crowd arrived at the Ice Dome, swelled by a good contingent of Hawks fans. The lights went out, teams arrived and we were ready to go! 

First Period: In front of a big crowd and an intense atmosphere the game got underway, right from the off the Phoenix made a mistake. I was not watching myself but, from others, Phoenix won the faceoff and the defence passed the puck back to Ryan in goal to give him an early touch. Trouble was, he wasn't expecting the pass, goal! After just 10sec the Hawks had the lead, with Jarred Owen credited as the scorers. This early goal for the Hawks ignited their fans and gave their players such a lift. The First ten minutes of this game were played at such a pace and intensity it was a true local derby. Despite the early set back the Phoenix tried to remain calm on the puck and absorb the early pressure coming from the Hawks. The home side got on the board thanks to Frankie Bakrlik scoring at 4min 34sec. The Phoenix were giving the Hawks some chances through their usual defensive turnovers but, the Phoenix continued to carry the greater goal threat. Phoenix extended their lead just 27 sec later when Robin Kovar got in on the scoring action at 5min 01sec. Not to be outdone the Hawks hit right back just 39sec later when Adam Brittle tied the game at 5min 40sec. On the re-start the Phoenix looked to have finally settled despite the pressure from the Hawks. The Phoenix were rotating through two lines in the early stages, even so, the players began to exert some control and look comfortable on the ice. Frankie Bakrlik put the home side ahead once more at 7min 32sec and then Jack Watkins capped some superb play to score through the 5-hole at 9min 50sec. Jack's goal capping a madcap first 10mins in this local derby, the Phoenix ahead 4-2. After the intense first 10mins the first period settled down and the intensity dropped off.  Fans in the stands were still having a great time but the game on the ice returned to an EPL team facing a NIHL team. Before the period close the Phoenix added one more goal, a hattrick goal for Bakrlik on the powerplay at 16min exactly. 

Second Period: The second session saw some of the stuffing nocked out of the Hawks as the home side ran riot in the second session. Jarred Dickinson was loving the extra ice time he was seeing and he owned the second period. Looking so comfortable on the puck Jarred extended the Phoenix lead at 22min 54sec then again at 24min 56sec. Two quick fire goals from the Phoenix sparked the Hawks into life and, their star player so far, Adam Brittle got another, the Hawks 3rd goal coming at 28min 55sec. Dickinson secured his hattrick just a minute later at 29min 52sec, and another goal followed in quick succession, Bakrlik getting his fourth at 30min 40sec. After the crazy first ten minutes the second half of the 2nd period calmed down but still saw two further goals. Kovar got his second of the game at 34min 25sec and Bobby Chamberlain got on the board with a powerplay goal at 38min 07sec. 

Third Period: With the game won the Phoenix eased off and this allowed the Hawks a little more freedom to play. The Hawks looked to have a little more stamina in the game than the Stars did and this allowed them to keep pressing the Phoenix. The Hawks hit two quick goals in the early stages of the final period, Adam Brittle sealing his hattrick at 43min 15sec and then Jarred Owen getting his second goal 12seconds later at 43min 27sec. No one believed the big comeback was on but, it did add a little edge to the remainder of the period! Despite the two quick goals the Phoenix scored once more at 44min 24sec when Chamberlain got his second of the night. The fans of both teams truly seeing a goal fest! After all that scoring the second half of the final period saw no further goals scored. 

Verdict: A big win in the first proper local derby in ages. Ok, so the result wasn't too surprising, the Phoenix were expected to win and, despite the scoreline, the Hawks offered more going forward than Billingham had. Perhaps the Stars had a better goaltender in Flavell which kept the score down. I was impressed with how the Hawks took on the game, they could have tried to limit the score but they came out flying and took the game to the Phoenix. Perhaps this also contributed to the scoreline. Stuart Ashton in the Hawks net looked to struggle, with the sheer power of shots coming his way, especially from Bakrlik, he struggled to stop them. Credit to the Hawks fans who were loud and proud throughout! Some stats/highlights from the period: 

Shots on Ashton (Hawks) 45, shots on Ryan (Phoenix) 23 
Bakrlik - 4 goals, sat out for third period 
Kovar - 2 gls 2 ass, sat out for third period 
Thompson - 5 assists 
Dickinson - 3gls 1 assists 

Dickinson got a deserved MOM for the home side in a real stand out game for the Phoenix! 

Attendance: Big crowd in the Dome 1,500 

Phoenix 12 Hawks 5 - Phoenix Article

Phoenix 12 Hawks 5 - Hawks Article

Phoenix TV:

Monday, 20 October 2014

Phoenix Rolling Cup Special - 11th October Billingham Stars

So the last weekend saw the Phoenix play NIHL opposition for the first time in the new English Challenge Cup competition. 
With the Phoenix in the northern group are: 

Billingham Stars 
Blackburn Hawks 
Peterborough Phantoms 
Sheffield Steeldogs 
Solway Sharks 
Telford Tigers 

The weekend saw the Phoenix take on the Billingham Stars in a home/away series across the weekend. Teams meeting in Altrincham saturday night, before the return fixture up at the Forum sunday afternoon. Going into the weekend the Phoenix were short on bodies, a few injuries, a restriction to only two imports, Tony asked not to ice. The u21's the Phoenix had hoped to use, in the EIHA's wisdom a Minators game was scheduled the same night so, the Phoenix had to call up a number of u18's to flesh out the bench. While the Phoenix would be expected to beat NIHL opposition, only dressing two imports, icing one at a time, and the inclusion of the youngsters would make it a different game to what Phoenix fans were used to. 

So, we all arrived at the Ice Dome, with a good contingent of noisy Stars fans, settled in to watch the nights action. 

First Period: The game began with the Phoenix retaining possession and, after just 50sec getting on the board. Bobby Chamberlain slotting the puck past Flavell in the Stars goal. Just the start the home fans wanted, even so, it was obvious this game would not be played at EPL intensity. The Stars were working hard but, lacked some of the finesse and skill the Phoenix had. Despite that the Stars did equalise, at 3min 31sec Davies got the Stars on the board to the delight of their fans. Phoenix re-grouped and asserted their control, keeping the puck in the Stars zone and being able to deal with any break-outs as they occurred. Shaun Thompson scored a quick fire brace when he managed to get into clear space around Flavell. His first coming at 11min 22sec and his second at 13min 15sec. The Stars were able to hit back when, ex Steeldog, Chris Sykes pulled the Stars back within a goal. The Stars second scored at 16min 19sec. While the game was close on the board it wasn't so much on the ice. Stars were working hard, especially Flavell in goal but, the Phoenix were rarely out of first gear for the most part. The first period ended with the Phoenix in control. 

Second Period: Perhaps it was the Stars tiring, perhaps it was the Phoenix moving up through the gears but, the home side put the game to bed in the second period. An early Watkins goal and a brace from Adam Walker made sure of the win just after the half way point. Watkins getting a reward for his hardwork when he scored the Phoenix 4th goal at 23min 23sec. Adam Walker getting his two (Phoenix 5th and 6th) at 27min and 34min 11sec respectively. The game then settled into a steady rhythm where the Phoenix controlled the pace and the Stars looked to begin tiring. The period ended with no further goals but, the Stars fans in fine voice. 

Third Period: No goals were scored in the third period but the Stars continued to bring the game to the Phoenix. The home side having eased off a little and allowing the u18's regular shifts. The Stars began to exploit some mistakes and create their own chances. As the period progressed and the result looked all the more certain. Tony Hand managed to give u18 nettie Harry Greaves get some ice time to close out the game. Perhaps receiving the loudest cheer of the night. The game ended with a win for the home side but, respect due to the Stars players and fans. 

Verdict: Not a classic by any means but, good to see a variety in opposition at the Ice Dome. The Phoenix rarely got out of first gear and, the difference in fitness was evident. But, the Stars were not disgraced, their players kept going, the fans were excellent and, in Flavell, they have a star goal-tender! 

Attendance: A decent crowd in the Ice Dome, i'll say 800. 

Phoenix 6 Stars 2 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 6 Stars 2 - Stars Article

Sunday saw the reverse fixture up in the north east, the Forum is a place I have played Ice Hockey in the past and have fond memories. I couldn't make the game so have a look at the two match reports below for a run down on the Phoenix 6-1 win. 

Stars 1 Phoenix 6 - Phoenix Article
Stars 1 Phoenix 6 - Stars Article

Friday, 10 October 2014

Phoenix Rolling - 9th October Sheffield Steeldogs

Amazing to think that, last night, a rare mid-week fixture for the Phoenix was the 5th time the Phoenix and Steeldogs have met so far this season, including pre-season!! Thursday nights game was the third in the roses rivalry and the second to be played at the Altrincham Ice Dome. The Phoenix would be hoping for a better outcome this time around though. 

A cold night greeted the fans as they flocked to the Ice Dome, the crowd swelled by a number of school groups in attendance. The Phoenix went into the game without Jacob Corson-Heron and James Archer, Sheffield without Jeff Legue and Craig Elliot. 

First Period: The game got underway with a high tempo and a weird underlying tension, at least that's how I felt it. It almost seemed like, after the battle in Sheffield the last time both sides met, it would only take a slight incident to re-ignite the tensions. But, that fear was to be un-founded. The game saw Phoenix controlling most of the puck but coming up against a Steeldogs team who were set up and working hard to re-strict the Phoenix's scoring chances. Phoenix held the puck and pressed int he Sheffield zone but, it would be a turnover, with the D left high that would cost the Phoenix. Sheffield broke out with pace with the Phoenix defence light on numbers, Korhun taking on the puck and shooting a laser guided puck past Fone in the home net. Steeldogs taking the lead at 4min 41sec, against the run of play it may have been but, Sheffield took their chance! The period resumed and the Phoenix again dominated possession and shots on Sedlar but, none of the shots were particularly testing and, the defensive frailties lead to the odd breakaway. 

Second Period: For the first ten minutes of the second period you could just re-read what happened in the first and, the next goal in the period was a carbon copy of the first. Sheffield again absorbing immense amounts of pressure, to then capitalise on a turnover with a fast break. Korhun again taking advantage scoring the Steeldogs second at 30min 46sec. Phoenix knew this second period was now crucial. With the way the Phoenix had been playing, they needed to score the next goal. The pressure finally told when, at 36min 31sec, a Bakrlik shot was spilled by Sedlar and, Kovar was on hand to tap in the rebound. This followed a priceless moment where Payette was obsessed with shadowing Burlin along the blue line taking himself out of the game leaving Sheffield down a player on the ice! The goal being the first time the Phoenix had been in a position to tidy up a Sedlar rebound. The goal lifted the Phoenix who continued to pile on the pressure, Sedlar repelling the rest of the shots coming his way. 

Third Period: Into the final session, Phoenix continued to dominate the play but Sheffield remaining resolute in their D form and play, keeping the Phoenix around the perimeter and clogging up the shooting lanes in and around Sedlar. Sheffield still threatened on the odd breakaway but the Phoenix were finally making it hard and allowing Fone a chance to make the save. Phoenix did bring the scores level at 46min 40sec when Boothroyd brought the puck in off the blue line and let a wrister go. The goal was given to Bakrlik on the night but, personally, I thought it was just a superb shot from Boother, must have been tipped by Bakrlik on the way through! As time ticked by neither side were able to create a guilt edged chance for a winner, Ref Miller seemingly had woken up and started calling penalties in the last few minutes. The Phoenix, going into OT two men down, Graham in the box to be joined by Psurny. 

Overtime: The extra session began with a 5 on 3 to Sheffield as Phoenix had two in the box. Just 11 seconds into the extra session Lloyd Gibson was called for hooking, a make up call in my opinion! Overtime was played like most of the game had been, surprisingly without much niggle and Phoenix in control for the most part but, due to the penalties, it was a little confusing as to how many players each team should have on the ice! As said, the OT period was played like regular time had been, so it was Sheffield who scored the winner. Phoenix in control but turning the puck over centre ice, Gibson on hand to pick up the puck, move in on Fone and score the winner at 62min 20sec. 

Verdict: The stats will show how dominant the Phoenix were in this game is most ways but the important one. Phoenix outshot the Steeldogs easily 2 to 1 but, the telling fact was, the shorts were far from quality. 60+ shots and you only score two goals is appalling and far from title winning. That, coupled with some defensive frailties will see the Phoenix a fair way off title winning pace, to many times the Phoenix were caught high up the ice giving Sheffield the breakaway chance. Thank god Legue was not playing as the scoreline could have been worse! That being said, credit must go to Sheffield! Much like when the Bison come to town, they set up to absorb the pressure and hit the Phoenix on the break, Tony must see he needs a plan B! Its frustrating to see the Phoenix take game so easily but, give up too many goals to breakaways. 

Now, Sheffield, I would like opinion from fans across the EPL on this. If Sheffield win in your barn, do they celebrate like they have just won the stanley cup? I know winning in OT can be a real hyped up moment but, the way Sheffield celebrated their win last night was disgraceful. Proper stick's/gloves thrown into the air skating at speed to celebrate the win. Call me bitter if you like but, I have seen many other teams win in the Ice Dome in OT (Phoenix included) and none have celebrated like Sheffield do! Sheffield, you have spent alot of money on this seasons team, you need to grow up and realise you are not the little budget team you think you are anymore! 

Officiating, a subject I really really try hard not to get worked up about. Last night was, one of the worst displays of officiating I have seen in the Ice Dome. The  whole team too Referee and Linesman. Genuinely, rose tinted aside, I have never watched a game and thought, I have no idea what that call was! And that applied to Sheffield's penalty calls too! The result of this game was not wholly determined by the two teams on the ice but, the three teams on the ice! 

Anyhoo, that mini rant of my chest, I hold no grudges on Sheffield getting the two points. Im pleased Phoenix got one but, they should have taken both! 

Attendance: Around 900 in the Ice Dome 

Phoenix 2 Sheffield 3 after OT - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 2 Sheffield 3 after OT - Steeldogs Article

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Phoenix Rolling - 28th September Peterborough Phantoms

With the disappointment of a null point weekend the Phoenix went into last weekends games with the need to put some points on the board. While no league title campaign is over in the first month of play, a poor start can lead you to play catch up for the entire season. Weekends are always tough in the EPL, this season more so. Saturday saw the Phoenix make the short-ish trip to Coventry to take on the MK Lightning. The SkyDome and its big ice has caused Phoenix problems in the past and the current short bench would not make things any easier. Following the MK game Phoenix would return home to take on a vastly improved Phantoms side in Altrincham on the sunday. 

The MK game was a tough one but Phoenix proved their title credentials with a tough 4-1 victory. Controlling the game, at least on the scoreboard, the Phoenix were 2-0 up by the end of the second period. The lead enable to the Phoenix to simply match anything MK could do. By the final buzzer the Phoenix had ground out a superb victory. Especially as they were without Frankie Bakrlik and Jacob Corson-Heron, who had suffered a broken collar bone the night before in training! 

MK 1 - Phoenix 4 - Phoenix Article
MK 1 - Phoenix 4 - MK Article
MK 1 - Phoenix 4 - MK TV

Despite the short bench the Phoenix returned to the Ice Dome to take on the Phantoms in what would be another tough game. Phantoms were on a high after getting a win against Guildford the night before and would be no pushover's. 

Another sunny sunday greeted hockey fans as battle was about to commence to see who skated away with a 4 point weekend! 

First Period: The game began at a good pace with both the Phoenix and Phantoms feeling each other out in the early stages. It was clear to see the Phantoms are a different prospect this season, pleasingly for the home support, the Phoenix defence also looked much improved with Fone rarely facing testing shots. Encouragingly for the Phoenix they were getting Auzins to give up some juicy rebounds! Phoenix scored first when Tony Hand found James Archer on the right faceoff circle who fired a shot straight past Auzins to give the home side the lead, his goal coming at 3min 57sec. Phoenix continued the pressure and Psurny was unlucky to double the lead a few minutes later, when he broke through the Phantoms defence only to lose control of the puck at the vital moment. The 2nd goal for Phoenix did come in the end, and it was former Phantoms James Archer again who scored it. This time a reward for a great line goal, Hand found Psurny who then found James free in the slot to score past Auzins, that goal coming at 16min 57sec. As the buzzer went the first period ended with the home side ahead and, remarkably, not a penalty called! 

Second Period: The Phantoms had to open up to come into the game and began to create some good chances of their own. The Phantoms did pull a goal back just before the 25min mark when the deadly Lithuanian Supercalifragalistic Darius Pliskauskas was set free by Koulikov to score an excellent goal past Fone. The Phantoms opening their account at 24min 17sec. For much of the second period the game was played without incident, in fact, it wasn't until about the 36th minute before referee Tom Perring found the need of his whistle for a penalty. Worryingly right at the end of the period James Archer limped off with a bad looking injury. He had been in top form all night and, after crashing the net and going over with Auzins he stayed down. Being helped off the ice and putting no weight on his right leg at all. He would not return. 

Third Period: With the game very much still in the balance both sides kept up their play in the third period. The Phantoms imports proving to be a cut above those in the past overall, with Bebris showing what the Steeldogs have lost in some great speed. Phoenix had momentum in the third, beginning the final session and, with McGiffin going for a tripping penalty 3 minutes in the Phoenix had the advantage again. After cycling the puck to create some space the puck found James Neil on the blue line who step forward and unleash a cracking shot to the top shelf. His goal being the Phoenix 3rd coming at 44min 44sec. Phantoms would not be frozen out though and continued to press. With Burlin leaving the game with an injury, Kovar went onto D duties and was called for a hooking penalty in the last minute. With Auzins off the ice the Phantoms set up for the faceoff 6 on 4. A superb faceoff win Apelis, who fed the puck back to J Ferrara on the point, who unleashed a storming shot to the pack of Fone's net. The Phantoms second goal coming just 4 seconds into the powerplay! That's what you call efficiency! Phantoms tried to throw everything at the Phoenix in those last seconds but, the home side repelled everything and, when the final buzzer went, were toasting a fine 4 point weekend. 

Verdict: After the previous weekends null point weekend, it was important for the Phoenix to get back on track. The 4 points this weekend is just what was needed, although the injury list is not! Two bodies short going into the weekend, then, losing Archer and Burlin too, the Phoenix are looking severely short benched at the moment. Hopefully a week of rest & recovery will see some bodies back on the ice. The Phoenix continue to put alot of shots on opposition goaltenders, last sunday night saw Fone face 35 shots and Auzins 53!!! Just need to work on the accuracy now! 

Attendance: A good crowd in, i'll say 1,100 

Phoenix 3 - Phantoms 2 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 3 - Phantoms 2 - Phantoms Article

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Thursday, 25 September 2014

Phoenix Rolling 21st September - 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