I wanted to do a blog post all about this coming weekend’s fixtures for the Manchester Phoenix. On Saturday we make the trip along the M62 to Hull, for the second leg of our British Knockout Cup game, which the Phoenix are currently leading 4-0. The Sunday game sees the visit of the Herd to the Ice Dome, for another second leg game, this time in the Challenge Cup. The Phoenix also led this tie by a score of 5-2.
The reason I think this is a big weekend for the Phoenix is simple; we have more of a chance of winning silverware through knockout competitions than the league. While I would dearly love hockey in Manchester to see another league triumph, after seeing the Manchester Storm lift the ISL title back in 1999, I just don’t think we have the resources to sustain a league challenge.
We could possibly break the top 4, but to mount a challenge for the summit I think is beyond us! It could happen, never say never, but I fear it would spell the end of hockey in Manchester. Our current fan base could not generate the money needed to win a league title, with out the backing of a major sponsor, and in today’s climate I doubt we could get it! I could be completely wrong but I don’t see it happening!
Anyway on to the weekends games:
Saturday 14th February – Hull v Phoenix – Knockout Cup 2nd Leg
As mentioned the Phoenix lead this tie 4-0, and the reward is the first final reached for the Manchester Phoenix, and Hull for that matter (if they win!). The winner will meet the Newcastle Vipers in the two-legged quarter final. I have to say the first leg (game review linked here) was pretty one sided, the Phoenix dominated and had it not been an excellent display by Cruickshank in goal the score could have been more. Even so, 4-0 is a good lead to take into the second leg. The family/gf and I will be making the trip across to Hull Saturday night, as will many Phoenix fans, in the hope the Phoenix can book its place in the final. I think this game depends on two things, Cruickshank and what mood he is in, and more importantly, what mood the Phoenix are in. In the grand scheme of things we should beat the Stingray’s, even in their barn! But its always tricky away in Hull, add to that the biggest carrot for both teams, the aforementioned final, Hull will be up for this as will their fans!
Calm heads will be needed on the Phoenix bench, strong leadership needed from Kenton and good tactics by Tony should see the Phoenix through. I see this game being very tight and the first goal will be crucial, the Phoenix must stay out of the sin bin too! We need to get Beauregard into the game and firing on all cylinders, we need Kyle Bruce to get in Stingray faces and we need the Cloots line to get in the corners and grind out the puck.
If we do all those things and deal with the main Stingray threats – Kalmikov/Kostadine and Glowa we should win through and see the Vipers in the quarter final. So a 4-0 lead and a visit to the rink with the best chips in the league, where else would you want to spend Valentines day with your girlfriend!
Sunday 15th February – Phoenx v Basingstoke – Challenge Cup 2nd Leg
After, hopefully, a good night in Hull the Phoenix return to action in the Ice Dome Sunday night. This sees the visit of the Basingstoke Bison and the second leg of our Challenge Cup tie. In the first leg the Phoenix raced to an early 4-1 lead, however it seemed we sat back and let the Bison back into the game. In the end the Phoenix won 5-3 and a lead is a lead! With a home leg, and the backing of a (becoming) notoriously noisy Ice Dome behind them I like our chances in this game! Games against the Herd have always been tough; the Bison are physical and annoy your players. They are quite capable of turning us over so are not to be taken lightly. This game will go much like the previous night, the result will depend on the mood of each team.
For the Bison I see their success depending on the excellent Kevin Reiter between the pipes. Each time I have seen the Bison in the Ice Dome, he has stood out as a star player, and numerous games could have seen double figures had it not been for Reiter standing on his head! Other than the big man between the pipes we have the impressive Eric Braff on D, hes got a cracking shot! Then there’s the, as always, annoying little git, Jeremy Cornish. Finally the main attacking threat, in my opinion, for the Bison comes from Greg Chambers. If the Phoenix can shut him down we should be ok!
Again this game is a biggie for each team, as again both teams see this as their best chance of silverware this season. The first goal, again, will be crucial! While the Phoenix have a lead it is only two goals. But if we come out flying from the 1st second and keep it going for 60 minutes we should be too strong for the Bison!
This is going to be a cracker of a game, a pumped up Ice Dome should create the most hostile environment for the Bison, bring it on!
So that’s it, my take on this weekends games for the Phoenix! I think we will win both games, but they will be tough! Check back next week for a double edition of my usual game review.
Come on Phoenix!