The Angry Budgie Live

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Playoff Finals Weekend Preview

8 has now become 4, and the season is reaching its climax! I think I did pretty well with my predictions for the quarters! 3 out of the 4 correct with my heart ruling my head on the Phoenix v Panthers result!

So the league champions Sheffield made it through relatively unscathed against the Capitals. This tie was more or less dead and buried at Ice Sheffield Friday night when the Steelers ran out 8-2 winners. An already tough situation was made worse for the Caps in their return game in Edinburgh. However the Caps were not to be outdone on home ice and won their last game of the season by the score of 5-4.

Now onto my beloved Phoenix, the army travelled over to Nottingham Saturday night with some Steeler/Bison and Hull fans in attendance too! My thoughts on this game were, keep it close and we have a chance! Well for two period we did! Going into the third and the scores were level at 3-3. However the Phoenix March Madness™ took its toll and the team ran out of steam. At the end of the first leg the Panthers were in front 6-3. So a difficult second leg was made worse, but all the Phoenix needed to do was to win each period by a clear goal to go to OT. At the end of the first it was going to plan and the Phoenix lead 1-0. The second was to be our downfall, a lucky bounce for the Panthers left Murphy stranded out his net with the puck on a Panthers stick in front of an empty net. A second goal squeeze through Murphy’s pads more or less sealed the tie. The Phoenix looked downhearted and exhausted. But the boys kept fighting and won the final period 1-0. Loosing the game on the night 3-2 and tie 9-5 overall. I think the relevant statistic for the end to our season is this – For the month of March 15 games in 27 nights!!!!

Next up was Coventry versus Newcastle, if you remember from my quarterfinal preview post I said this one was possibly the easiest to predict. But how I was wrong, this tie goes to show nothing is easy and league placement counts for nowt come playoff time! The Vipers travelled to Coventry Saturday night and scared the bejeebuz out of the Blaze to get a 2-2 tie. So off to Newcastle with everything to play for! It looked to be going the way of the Vipers in the second leg, then with 2min 20sec left on the clock Sylvian Deschatelets scored the go ahead goal for the Blaze and Barrie Moore scored the empty netter. I fancied the Vipers to get a result after the first leg, but the Blaze obviously dug deep and ground out the win.

Finally was Belfast versus Cardiff, this was probably the tie where one of the top 4 was going to come into trouble. It looked almost a done deal after the first when the Devils skated out of Belfast with a 2-1 lead. This was to prove vital as an epic game in the big blue tent. The Giants managed to fight back and tie the game. Then with 59sec left on the clock the numpty that is Bobby Robins took a penalty. Powerplay to the Devils going in to OT, and who else but Brad Voth scored the winner for Cardiff at 60min 33sec to send the Devils to Nottingham!

So for yours truly another weekend of heartbreak, another great game at the Dome with a big crowd. A big shout out to the travelling Panthers support, probably the biggest away crowd this season. This will now leave me to enjoy the finals weekend, and not having to worry about my teams chances in the final. I always think its nice to enjoy the weekend with no worries about my team. But this season more than any, it’s a case of what could have been! But never mind, onto my semi final predictions and maybe a couple of final predictions too!

Sheffield Steelers vs Cardiff Devils
The Steelers have obviously switched back on for the playoffs, after a potentially tricky tie against the Capitals was pretty much over after the first leg, the Steelers will want to carry on that devastating form into finals weekend. With a large support behind them in the NIC they will fancy a spot in the final. Standing in their way will be the Devils, who came through a great tie against the Giants. The Devils have to fancy their chances, they are playing well and will ‘probably’ have the support of most of the arena against the Seelers. Ill be throwing my support behind them if I can be bothered. If they promise to silence that stupid drummer ill be behind them 100%!

Who will win: My feelings on this are much the same as mine on the Phoenix chances against the Panthers. I want the Devils to win, on behalf of the ‘Little Six’™ and to show the ‘Big four’™ they cant have it all their own way. However with my head switched on, I can see the Steelers winning this. They have shown a ruthless efficiency in winning games this year and have such strength in depth. After missing out last year they will want to win this one! So ill go for a Steeler win in this one.

Nottingham Panthers vs Coventry Blaze
This game will depend on two things, will either team turn up? Its an evenly matched tie, either team can win it. I do worry about the Blaze, they are no longer the dominating force they once were. Plus they were very disappointing in the finals last year. The Panthers can beat any team with ease, however if you knock them early they can wobble and are easily beaten.

Who will win: To stick two fingers up at Elite Towers I hope the Panthers don’t make it to the final. But the Panthers are on home ice, with a huge support, there will be an air of expectation. I fancy this game going the distance and maybe all the way to penalty shots. As to who will win, well that’s a toughie! If the Blaze hit top form they will beat the Panthers, but im pluming for a Panther win on home ice. Sorry Paul, but you’ll have my support of the Blaze in this one!

Final Possibilities:

I think ive listed all possible final permutations, if ive missed one out let me know!

Sheffield versus Nottingham
This is the final Elite towers will be dreaming about! The self-proclaimed ‘biggest rivalry in Europe’. What a load of dogs danglies in my opinion, this final has equal opportunity to go two ways. Live up to the hype and be an awesome final of intense end-to-end action or, turn into a bore fest. With 8 sets of fans quickly loosing interest and starting their own chants and Mexican waves! As for who will win, either team can, however im going for a Steeler win, even though I don’t want them too! Every thing about this Steeler team points to one that is unstoppable at the moment! The famous quote applies more than ever to the team from Sheffield: ‘Offence wins games, defence wins championships’. I think in a final the Steelers will be too strong for the Panthers, however the Panthers will have my support, and could win on home ice!

Sheffield versus Coventry Blaze
Much like their semi-final this game will depend on which Blaze team turn up! They still have quality players who can win games on their own. But they will be coming up against a team with such strength in depth! My support would be with the Blaze but again my head says the Steelers would win through.

Nottingham versus Cardiff
An interesting game to call, the Devils so far have flattered to deceive at finals weekend, having always been the bridesmaids. Will this year be the time they take the cup? I think they have a chance, the type of game the Devils play will needle the Panthers and if they run into penalty trouble the Devils will win it. Plus the Devils will have the large Steeler support behind them and much of the rest of the arena. Im going to stick my head out and go for a Cardiff win in this one!

Coventry versus Sheffield
A clash of two of the most skilful teams in the league, the once dominant Blaze against the currently dominating Steeler machine. The Blaze are another team, like the Devils, who never seem to click on finals weekend. If they do they can match the Steelers and take the game, but anything less than 100% will cost the Blaze the cup! As for a winner, ill go for the Steelers…..just!

Coventry versus Cardiff
This is a final id like to see, and, probably, most of the ‘Little Six’™. If this were to happen I predict a massive coronary at Elite Towers! I really think this could give us the most entertaining final of all the possibilities. The Blaze bring the free flowing skill and the Devils bring the gritty determined work effort. I wouldn’t mind either team winning, as each has had many attempts at it! However as for a winner, ill go for the Blaze!

Phew, sorry for the long post, if you’ve made it this far thanks for reading! I hope you liked it! As mentioned, if you cant make it to Nottingham, keep an eye on the blogs to the right as there will be many that are updating through the weekend. Sadly due to technology issues (ie. I don’t have a laptop) The Angry Budgie will not get updated until next week. However I do plan a fairly in dept review of the weekend, including pics and videos.

I don’t plan on posting again before the weekend (though you never know!) so ill sign off for now! Im off to Nottingham Friday morning, then returning next Monday morning. So for those fans attending the weekends fun and frolics have fun and wave at the Phoenix block. You never know I may wave back! For those who cant make it, keep an eye on the blogs, and remember, support your local team!!

Monday, 30 March 2009

Phoenix V Nottingham 29th March - Playoff Quarter Final 2nd Leg

This was the second leg of our playoff quarter final against the Nottingham Panthers, it was always going to be a difficult tie. The 1st leg in Nottingham Saturday night was going well for the Phoenix at 3-3. But the third period curse hit the Phoenix, and with the something like 17th game in a month the Phoenix legs began to tire. Final score was 6-3 Panthers. So Sundays game saw the Phoenix needing to win each period by a clear goal to go to OT. A doable task but one, which would need the Phoenix to give absolutely everything they had!

First Period: Good opening period from both teams and with both sets of supporters in fine voice. Nottingham had the better of the opening exchanges and Murphy was forced into some early saves. Slowly the Phoenix began to ease more into the game and start to press Robinson into some fine saves. Not surprising that the first goal came quite a way into the period, and it came for the Phoenix. At 17min 58 seconds Josh Garbutt came down the right wing and fired a powerful wrister to Robinsons glove side, while the Panthers goalie got some of the puck the power took it into the net. The Dome exploded and the period ended 1-0 Phoenix. One period down, two to go!

Second Period: Sadly that goal woke the Panthers, they came out flying in the second period and lay siege to the Phoenix net. Ref Tom Darnell began the Darnell show and started calling everything, even infractions that never happened. Que much comment from both sets of fans saying it would be a miracle for both teams to play the period 5 on 5! The Panthers finally got on the board through some bad luck for Stephen Murphy. Stephen rounded the net to collect a puck, but a bad bounce saw the pack come out in front of an empty net for Clarke to slot home at 25min 56sec. The Phoenix luck got worse when at 30min 58sec Myers, somehow, slotted the puck through Murphy’s pads. As much as it pained me, that was it for the Phoenix! We looked tired and with the scores at 2-1 Panthers we would need to win by 4 clear goals just to go to OT, and with our schedule taking its toll it didn’t look like it was going to happen but…..

Third Period: Credit to the Phoenix they came out fighting in the third. I would argue the Phoenix had the better of this period. The nigh on impossible task became harder when at 46min 45sec Brendan Cook scored for the Panthers. The task now for the Phoenix was to bring some respectability to the scoreline. After some terrific support in the stands the Phoenix scored the last goal of the game at 53min 54sec through Nathan Ward in front of his parents. So the game ended 3-2 Panthers and 9-5 on aggregate. Not an unexpected result as the Phoenix looked dead on their feet at the end!

Verdict: As mentioned above this was always going to be a difficult game for the Phoenix, but a winnable one! The Phoenix had to be at their best, and they were! Easily competing with the Panthers for most of the game! I just wish our mad March schedule had not happened, we may well have been celebrating a historic win over Nottingham. A fast paced game that really lived up to playoff hockey. Sadly Tom Darnell had a say in the game and a procession of penalties in the first and second really put paid to our chances. Neil Morris came on the ice at the end and thanked the support and players for a magnificent season. In the end, we may well be missing out on a trip to Nottingham but this team have performed magnificently. Two finals, 6th place and an appearance in the playoff quarters! At least, this season, we can say we beat Sheffield, Nottingham, Coventry and Cardiff in appearing in two finals in one season! Well done Phoenix!

Attendance: Great travelling support from Nottingham, around 400 fans for the Panthers in the Dome. A little disappointed in the turn out form the Phoenix fans. Possibly an equal crowd to that which watched the 1st leg of the CC final against the Giants. So that puts the crowd at about 1,800.

So that’s the end of the season for the Phoenix, just a quick heads up for my plans for the rest of the current season and this blog. Ill hopefully have a finals preview post done for this week. Then there will be no coverage from this blog while in Nottingham, unless I go crazy and buy a wi-fi laptop! Post finals weekend ill do a review, including pictures I hope! My final act for this season, probably, will see my own season long review of the Goaltending, Defence, Attack and Fans of the Phoenix. Then possibly my thoughts on each elite team and their season.

So stay tuned, and get reading all the blogs on the right as these playoffs will be covered like no other!

Phoenix TV Highlights:

MEN Article - Nottingham 6 - 3 Phoenix.

MEN Article - Phoenix 2 - 3 Nottingham.

Manchester Phoenix.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Knockout Cup Final

Belfast Giants (7) 4 - 2 (5) Manchester Phoenix

Well that says it all really, the Phoenix second shot at some silverware ended the way the first did! This time we did score first and looked to be doing ok, but an early Giants goal in the third, about 40 odd seconds in, took the wind out of the Phoenix sails and the Giants never looked back!

Im still gutted, our little team has come so close to two cups and yet fallen at the last hurdle. I just hope the Phoenix can come back and knock over the Panthers, we deserve something for our season!

I cannot fault the guys effort, by all accounts they kept fighting to the end. Im just gutted they have nothing to show for it! We could blame the ref but that would not solve anything, the Phoenix have just suffered from our March madness. Too many fixtures in one month have just meant our third period is usually run on fumes! For this reason I worry about our playoff chances against the Panthers. I think for the 1st and 2nd periods of both games we will compete with them, but I do worry about our legs in the third!

If the hockey gods can smile on us at least once this season, please let it be now!

Anyway to all you out there in readerland, have a great weekend, enjoy the hockey and ill see you in Nottingham!

The Boys done us proud.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

2009 Elite Leage Playoff Quarter Final Preview

Well that’s it for another year, the regular season has finished and we have only two weeks of hockey left! Then we will have to put up with football for another couple of months before the countdown to 09/10 begins! Anyway for today’s post I wanted to preview the finals match ups and offer my own thoughts on what may happen, what I want to happen and a quick summary of who will be key for each team. This years match ups genuinely offer a few surprises and potential slip ups. I can honestly see a situation where none of the top 4 make it. It wont happen but there could be a few surprise packages in Nottingham on the 4th April!

Anyway onto the quarter final games:

Sheffield Steelers vs Edinburgh Capitals
Well this is an interesting tie, and one which may not be as clear cut as you may think. The big thing about playoff hockey is that any game is for the taking, league placings count for nothing come finals hockey. Added to this the Steelers have really been coasting coming into the playoffs and the Caps have hit a great run of form to take them clear of Hull in 8th. Another thing in the Caps favour is having the first leg in Sheffield, and Ice Sheffield for that matter. A rink that, even Steeler fans themselves, admit has not been the happiest hunting ground for the Steel machine. So if the Caps can keep it close or tied down in Sheffield they must fancy their chances back on home ice!

Steelers player to watch: Well you cant look past Jody Lehman really! This man has been in scintillating form all season backstopping a team to only 6 regulation losses all season. This man is the main reason behind the Steelers success this season!

Capitals player to watch: Has to be Mark Hurtubise, this man has simply been awesome for the Capitlals. A man who has stuck with them all season and fell just two points shy of the magical 100 point barrier. If he hits top form against the Steelers he could send the Capitals to Nottingham.

Who will win: In my heart of hearts I want the Caps to win, just upset the cart and provide some intrest in Nottingham. I recon there will be 8 sets of supporters behind the Caps in this one! However if I listen to my head I can see the Steelers winning this, they have been a ruthless machine for most of the season and can wipe the floor with anyone on their day. Ill go for a tight Steelers win, but will hope for different!

Coventry Blaze vs Newcastle Vipers
This is another playoff pairing which could well throw up a surprise. Coventry are not the dominating force they used to be, and in Perras they have a good nettie but not one in top form like Lehman. Newcastle on the other hand have a fast team, but one suffering from injuries. The other thing that may hinder them is their tendency to spend most of the game in the penalty box, and with the Blaze having players such as Calder and Deschatelets that could be terminal!

Blaze player to watch: Difficult to pick on guy out when the Blaze have 4 players with 70+ points for the season. But im going for Adam Calder, a second stonking year and only piped to the scoring post by David Alexandre Beauregard. Still a class player!

Vipers player to watch: Not sure who to go for on the Vipers roster, so ill pick David Longstaff, the only reason being his annoying habit of being able to rack up points against the Phoenix! Despite how old and silly he looks he is still a vital cog in the Viper machine!

Who will win: I think this one is fairly simple to predict, while it is playoff hockey and anyone can win. I think recent injuries will hurt Newcaslte and ultimately Coventry should have the strength in dept to see them to Nottingham.

Nottingham Panthers vs Manchester Phoenix
Well this is the tie everyone on either side seemed to want, and for the same reasons too! Both sets of fans believe they can beat each other! Plus you could argue the Knockout Cup on Thursday could be ideal preparation for the Panthers. This will be a great tie and, putting aside my Phoenix tinted specs, I think this is the ite of the finals weekend! If they want to both teams can get the puck and play fast flowing hockey with scant regard to defence! They key for Nottingham is to get a good lead from the first leg in the NIC, the key for the Phoenix is to keep it close and look forward to the home leg in Alty. This second leg is already shaping up to be another ‘game of the season’ with ticket sales going very well we could have our second sell out, and anyone who has seen the Ice Dome full and in full flow will agree it’s a sight and sound to behold! In that atmosphere I fancy a Phoenix victory.

Panthers player to watch: Seeing as though Dan Tessier is injured I have to go for Brendan Cook. Leading the Panthers in scoring he could lead them to the finals.

Phoenix player to watch: I desperately don’t want to pick the obvious, but I cant! The key man will be David Alexandre Beauregard. The man is simply an awesome player and deserves his position at the top of the Elite League pile. If Nottingham don’t shut down our first line we could well see the Phoenix in Nottingham and not the hosts.

Who will win: It depends on the first leg for me, if we keep it close I really fancy the Phoenix to win. Even my head thinks we can do it, we have always had close games with the Panthers and either team has beaten each other on their home ice! So ill stick my head out and go for a Phoenix victory.

(Come on you cant be surprised! A Phoenix blog predicting a Phoenix victory?)

Belfast Giants vs Cardiff Devils
Probably the third tie where a top 4 team could be surprised! While the Giants recent form has not been great they also have the distraction of the Knockout Cup final on Thursday. While this may well have no effect on the Giants it will still be a hard fought tie. The Giants/Devils have worked up quite a rivalry this season and things could get sticky! Two evenly matched teams will face off in the O for the first leg, then its all back to the big blue tent for the second leg! Much like the Phoenix, if the Devils keep it close in the O I fancy them to take it on home ice!

Giants player to watch: Has to be Paul Deniset, with something like 3 hatricks in 3 different games in Altrincham id love to see this guy pull on a Phoenix jersey!

Devils player to watch: Im not going for the obvious top scorers on the Devils roster, no, im going for possibly the most hated player on Elite Ice. Step forward Mr Brad Voth, this man is simply Mr Cardiff Devils. While he is not the flashiest of players, on every Devils visit to Altrincham he manages to stir things up and get a few points on the board!

Who will win: This will be the tightest tie of the quarter finals and one which will be keenly fought. Even though the Giants have two cups in the bag already I do fancy the Devils to win this. They have hit form at just the right time, and always have a nack of reaching the finals weekend!

So there we have it, my predictions for finals weekend! Im really looking forward to the 4/5th April even if the Phoenix don’t make it! I really fancy this year as the year for a surprise and if my predictions come through it could be a weekend that shakes the established order in the Elite League.

So have fun this weekend everyone! In the next day or two ill post a quick few thoughts on Thursdays Knockout Cup second leg. A cup, which many fans, from so-called ‘larger’ clubs seem now to dismiss! Im sorry but it’s a piece of silverware isn’t it! Hopefully this blog will also have some information on the extensive fan coverage of finals weekend!

So keep your eyes and ears peeled this could be a cracking end to the season!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Knocout Cup Final 2nd Leg Preview

This Thursday see’s the Belfast Giants take on the Manchester Phoenix in Belfast for the right to lift the Knockout Cup. This tie is in the balance after a pretty darn good game at the Ice Dome, which left the scores at 3-3. Now you may well have been in a cave and not heard the unrest caused by the organisation of this final. If you’re a regular reader of this blog you will know my feelings on this already. Im not going to bang on about it so that will be my last comment on it.

As for the game at the O, it really is either teams to win! Personally I don’t think the Phoenix are at a disadvantage due to the scores being tied 3 a piece. As we know from the CC final the 4-3 lead did us no favours so a 3-3 game means ‘game on!’
I think this reason will bring the best out of the Phoenix, what better motivation for the team than a final at the winner takes all stage!

So I will make a quick comment on each teams performance and give my own prediction over who will win.

The Giants: You would think from the off the Giants have the best chance, 3-3 and the second leg in their own barn. They will need to get Paul Deniset and George Awada into the game early. I dislike the ex Manchester man quite a bit now for the way he plays. But he is so important to how the Giants function. In every game I have seen the Giants play in Altrincham he has been at the middle of everything prowling the ice. Always willing to mix things up, but also willing to play dirty! The destiny of the cup will also be decided by what mood Stevie Lyle is in, he can be an amazing stopper when in full flow. But he can also be completely hopeless!

The Phoenix: While it made no difference to the Knockout Cup Final the Phoenix will be buoyed by another win over the Giants. The only negatives to come out of the game were a number of injuries the Phoenix picked up due to some questionable play by certain Giants players. But they will, hopefully, have cleared up come Thursday. The Phoenix must not be scared of the big ice or taking the game to the Giants. They have just as much chance of winning this game as the Giants do. It will be essential to hit the ice flying and get in the Giants faces, as proved so well in the 1st leg of the CC Final. The Phoenix need to get David Beauregard into the game quickly, Tony Hand needs his passing head on and Kyle Bruce needs to get rattling the plexi! In a similar vein to Stevie in the Giants net, the success of the Phoenix will also depend on, arguably, the no.1 GB nettie in Steven Murphy playing a blinder! He is a class act in full flow.

Who will lift the cup? Well that’s the $64,000 question isn’t it! Either team can! With my Phoenix tinted specs on I think we can do it! We are not scared of the Giants and have shown we can beat them! It will be another close game, but I can see both teams lifting the cup! The Giants will fancy it on their own ice, in front of a large (probably) crowd and will want some more silverware in the cabinet.
Despite this im going for a tight Phoenix win, simply because once a club gets the whiff of silverware the determination and desire goes through the roof! The players will want to right the wrongs of the CC final and bring the first piece of silverware back to the Ice Dome.

It will be tough, it will be fast, but it will be another classic served up by this developing rivalry. Whoever said the Knockout Cup wasn’t worth it is an idiot, or more than likely, a fan of a club not in the final!

So that’s the Knockout Cup previewed, check back this time tomorrow for my inaugural play off quarter final preview.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Phoenix v Belfast 22nd March Elite/Knockout Cup 1st Leg Game Review

Last nights game was a 2-1 as it were, we had the last league game of the season to be played at Alty Ice Dome for the 0809 season and, to add to the value for money stakes, the first leg of the KnockOut Cup Final. Now if your a member of one of the numerous hockey forums around t'league you will probably know how the Phoenix fans have viewed the organising of this particular final. Yours truly even had a rant here. Weather you agree with me or not, its up to you, but either way the league have organised this competition particularly badly!

Anyway, last nights game was more about the cup final than the league game, as a win would do nothing for either team!

So onto the game and the umpteenth meeting between the Phoenix and Giants this month!

First Period: It was obvious from the opening exchanges that this game was not going to be played at the same helter skelter pace that the Challenge Cup Final was. Needless to say it was still end to end hockey of the finest quality. Two team who prefer to play hockey rather than rough it up, was truly a pleasure to watch! The first incident of the game saw Alex Dunn forced off the ice with a suspected back injury. Despite this it was the Phoenix who jumped on the score sheet first through Lucas Burnett at 4min 54sec. The Phoenix then ran into penalty trouble and played a good 6minute period with someone in the box. The trips to the penalty box took its toll and the Giants equalled at 19min 18sec on the power play through Tyler Howells.

Second Period: More of the same in the second, both teams working hard not wanting to make too many mistakes. The Giants took the initiative and, after some good early chances for both teams, who took the lead at 32min 24sec through Bobby Robins. Not to be outdone Luke Fulgham finished off a beautiful move to bring the Phoenix level at 37min 54sec.

Third Period: One last period left for the 1st leg, however if needed the overtime and penalties would be used to decide the win and the extra point. The Phoenix scored first at 44min 54sec when Luke Fulgham got his second of the night, and a rather tasty top shelf wrister off the post. The Giants tied it up with just over 5 mins left in the period, at 54min 04sec through Colin Shields. That's the way it ended, with the Knockout Cup going back to Belfast at 3 a piece. Now it was into OT and possibly penalties for the league result.

Overtime: 4 on 4 hockey followed with the open ice creating some great opportunities. It was the Phoenix who scored and took the extra point, and possibly a good psychological edge over the Giants. The game winning goal scored at 62min 10sec by Nathan Ward - incidentally in front of his folks!

Verdict: With the added incentive of the Knockout Cup this turned a potentially dull league game into an interesting free flowing hockey game. Im glad we got the win in our last home league game of the season, and despite what you may think im fairly happy about the Knockout Cup result too! As we have found out before the Phoenix have not been able to hold a lead in a cup final, so a tied result means 'game on' in Belfast. The Phoenix will know, to win the cup, you win the game! No better motivator than that! The one worrying thing to come from the game were the injuries the Phoenix picked up. We oviously lost Alex Dunn early on, however Luke Boothroyd left the game witha nasty cut to the chin, and later Cloots with a cut under the nose - he did return however! This was all due to some rather intresting hits from the Gians that went unpunished!

Attendance: Big crowd, but not as big as the CC final, so ill say about 1,500 in!

Phoenix TV highlights:

MEN article here.

So an evenly placed cup final, one which both teams will fancy winning!
With the league ending last night it has also decided the playoff finals pairings, and the Phoenix have got pretty much who we wanted in the Panthers. An interesting tie and one I fancy an upset in!

My plan for this week is to do two preview postings, one will address the second leg of the Knockout Cup and the second will preview the finals games across the board. Including my predictions on who will win and advance to Nottingham. Speaking of which, I booked my train tickets today! Cant wait!

Friday, 20 March 2009

Phoenix v Hull 19th March Game Review

Bit of a strange game this one, it’s a game that does not mean much to the Phoenix but means everything to Hull. The Stingray’s knowing a win is vital if they are to make the playoffs. Plus with Edinburgh also in action it makes this game a real nail biter for the Stingrays. For the Phoenix its more a case of getting through the game unscathed, with a big game against the Giants coming up on Sunday the Phoenix need to take it easy to aid recovery ahead of the Knockout Cup Final.

First Period: Well, either the Phoenix are still tired, ill or just playing badly the Stingray’s raced to a 2-0 lead in the first 4 minutes. Not undeserved either, the Stingrays were flying, and hustling the Phoenix hard. If they could only have played all season like this they would not be second bottom! The first goal came on the power play at 2min 29sec when Pavel Gomenyuk rifled a shot above Murphy’s right shoulder, cracking shot! The second came 56seconds later at 3min 22sec when Lee Esders, jumped with Kenton Smith batted the puck down (debatable as to weather that should have been called an infraction!) and swept through unmarked on Murhpy to deak the Phoenix nettie and extend the lead. So far it was a lead well earned by the Stingray’s as the Phoenix had not shown much so far! However the Phoenix did make it onto the board at 13min 07sec on the powerplay through the leagues leading scorer and general all round nice guy David Beauregard!

Second Period: The first interval came at a good time for the Phoenix, as into the second period they shifted out of first gear. Despite this it was the Stingrays who extended their lead to 3-1 at 23min 34sec through Konstantin Kalmikov. Lucas Burnett would finally get the Phoenix on the board at 25min 48sec while shorthanded, he managed to find a gap in Cruickshank’s pads to light the goal light. Now the Phoenix goal machine really swung into action and Adam Walker would score two goals in 50seconds, his first at 30min 12sec with a sweet backhander that deceived Cruickshank, and then at 31min 02sec with a nice one timer to the top corner. This got the Phoenix nose in front for the first time in the evening. It was the Stingray’s who would have the last laugh in the period when, at 32min 41sec, Kalmikov would get his second of the night!

Third Period: Anyone’s game in the third now! The Phoenix were still scrabbling around in the lower gears but were now matching the Stingrays. A fairly clam period was shocked into life when Bruce Mulherin connected with a beautiful one-timer to put the Phoenix in the lead at 45min 29sec. The Stingrays were still fighting hard and fuller deserved to tie the game up again. Their 5th of the night came at 52min 02sec when the dependable Jeff Glowa got his first of the night.

Overtime: Not a lot happened in OT, each team traded chances with Beauregard arguably having the best opportunity.

Penalties: Onto penalties to decide the extra point:

1) Kalmikov – Hull – Scored 1-0
2) Walker – Manchester – Scored 1-1
3) Glowa – Hull – Scored 2-1
4) Mulherin – Manchester – Missed 2-1
5) Reynolds – Hull – Missed 2-1
6) Beauregard – Manchester – Scored 2-2
7) Kalmikov – Hull – Scored 3-2
8) Walker – Manchester – Scored 3-3
9) Glowa – Hull – Scored 4-3
10) Mulherin – Manchester – Missed 4-3

Verdict: As mentioned at the start a very strange game and performance from the Phoenix. A win for the Phoenix would not really do much for their league position so the usual intensity was not required. This showed and I think a mixture of exhaustion, illness and just a below par performance coupled with a tenacious Stingray performance meant I could not begrudge the Stingrays their first win over the Phoenix this season. A win which was much needed as the Capitals vanquished the Vipers in the nights other game! I was a little worried, though, over Murphy’s 5-hole, he seemed to leave it open quite a lot. I just hope the guys are getting rest to recover. If you want to read a review of the game from the Stingray’s perspective head over to the excellent
F Block Blog for a quick read!

Attendance: Poor last night, I would say 6-700 in.

Phoenix TV Highlights:

MEN Article here.

So the Phoenix still managed a point out of the game, personally I will hope for the same in Edinburgh Saturday night. That’s another game where the Phoenix don’t need a result, just get through it with the least amount of effort expended and injury free in readiness for Sunday. Which I hope the Phoenix will come out all guns blazing for!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Challenge Cup Final

So last night saw the second leg of the Challenge Cup final over in Belfast at the Dundonald Ice Bowl. The Phoenix took a 4-3 lead into this second leg and if it was anything like the first leg, those fans in attendance were in for a treat!

Around 120 Phoenix fans made the trip and on arrival at the Bowl found only 75 seats to sit in! Good rink management there! Anyway I couldn’t make the trip due to lack of funds, and I was unable to watch the webcast too so I cant really comment much on the game!

In the end the Phoenix lost on the night 3-1 and 6-5 on aggregate, by all accounts the game was played at a frenetic pace and really was end-to-end action. Ill admit to writing this while totally gutted and I really do feel for the guys. This March has seen them play a ridiculous number of games, and with half the team sick and on anti-biotic's each player stood tall and worked his ass off for the cause. If I could pinpoint a moment the game turned, it would possibly be the third period in Altrincham. The Phoenix had a 4-0 lead at that point and the Giants fought back to 4-3. Now im not going to blame the guys, it really was a combination of fatigue and an excellent Giants side.

It seemed last night the Phoenix took some time to get going and the Giants really had the best of the first period. By the end of the first the Giants had scored 5 unanswered goals in the tie. It was always going to be a steep climb for the Phoenix and this made it even harder. But credit to the guys they brought it back level and then worked so damn hard for the rest of the game. So in my opinion I would say over 6 periods, the Phoenix shaded 2, the Giants shaded 2 and we will call the other 2 even! Hardly a shabby performance against such a powerful Belfast team!

So to have come so close to the clubs first piece of silverware and yet fall short is heart wrenchingly painful to take. But, as our friends over at Five Minute Major have alluded to, this will make us stronger! Hey all the best teams have to suffer heart break before success! It shows how far this team have come and the progress made, two cup finals in one season, improving on last seasons league placing and, lets face it, a decent chance of making finals weekend in Nottingham!

The Phoenix can hold their heads high and play with pride for the rest of the season, watch out Elite League, the Phoenix are coming!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Knocout Cup Farce

This rant was originally going to be tacked onto the end of the Phoenix v Vipers game review from yesterday. However after thinking about it all and thrashing out a post its turned into an article in its own right. So boys and girls, seat belts fastened? Popcorn bought? Lets go!

If you check here is the link to the Knockout Cup Final details on the Phoenix site. Where you can read about the generous accommodation made by the Elite League and the Giants in terms of accommodating the, as yet to be played, Knockout Cup Final games against the Giants. Now ill admit im ranting about this with no knowledge about the dealings and communications between all three parties, as are everyone else really!

Now lets set a few things out first:

  • The problem has been created as both the Phoenix and the Giants have progressed to the final, both finals are two legs. Add in to the usual fixture crunch that happens at the end of the season and you are left with a perfect storm.
  • The Giants are an arena team, so they don’t have huge amounts of flexibility in re-arranging or shoe horning in extra games! Having said that they do have Dundonald!
  • The Elite League leaving the competition to run so late in the season.
  • The Giants qualified for the CC Final first and got 2nd leg at home! Fair enough!

Ok so sorry they turned into a little rant to! As you will have read to accommodate the final the Phoenix V Giants game this sunday the 22nd March is doubling up as the 1st Leg of the Final. The second leg will be played at the O on Thursday the 26th March.

This is wrong on a number of levels:

  • The Giants only have to make one visit to Altrincham, however the Phoenix have to make another trip to Belfast. To be fair the Giants should be making two trips to Alty, one for the league game and one for the 2nd Leg of the final! Which……
  • Should be at Altrinhcam. Any scrap of credibility and fairness the league had has now firmly left the building. The Phoenix qualified for the final first and therefore, as the Giants had the 2nd leg of the CC final, we should have the 2nd leg of this final.
  • So we could have had the final played over the Tue/Thu of next week, no big deal, the Phoenix have been playing like this all March!
  • Plus I don’t buy the argument that this was the only date that O was available. Bullocks, that’s why the Giants have been using Dundonald, that’s why the CC final is in Dundonald. Play at Dundonald!

Generally in life I don’t get very angry, the only times I do its always hockey related, and this is no exception im really angry about this! OK ignore this as a ‘little team fan rant’ but bullocks again, the big 4 and Elite League have had their way and had us over a barrel! This is a crappy deal, the Phoenix have lost out on a money spinning home second leg, a leg that potentially could have had the team lifting a trophy at home! The one concession I will make is it makes the last game of the season, against the Giants from a pointless league game into a meaningful cup final game, but that is it! Nothing else!

I just can’t calm down about this, the Phoenix really have been shafted!

I will doff my cap to Andy C and Neil who must have worked tirelessly sorting this out! But its not right we should be having the 2nd leg!

So phew, got that off my chest, onto tonight's CC Final 2nd Leg. This will be a tight game, and one im sure will be played at the same insane intensity levels of the first leg! I hope the Phoenix can do it, I wont be there in person but will be in spirit!

Monday, 16 March 2009

Phoenix v Newcastle 15th March Game Review

So the Vipers rolled into Altrincham for the BMI Baby Elite League clash, which for the Phoenix, was the umpteenth game in 2 nights, or so it seems! With Tuesdays 2nd Leg of the CC final looming this was a game, which in my opinion we could have done without!

First Period: So the first period began and as ever when the Vipers come to town it was going to be a tough physical game! As it turned out it was the Vipers who were to have the best of the opening 20 minutes. The first Vipers goal came after only 2min 16 seconds when Derek Campbell came down the right side of the zone and let fly and stonking wrist shot that beat Murphy on his glove side. The Phoenix broke back at4min 42sec through Nathan Ward, assisted by Dunn and Garbutt. The Vipers regained the lead at 8min 47sec through the eternal David Longstaff, slid the puck under Murphy’s pads.

Second Period: With 40mins left in the game I think most Phoenix fans were still hopeful of this game. It was clear, however, that the Phoenix were either holding back or absolutely exhausted as the recent fixture crunch began to take its toll! The Vipers made it 3-1 at 25min 56 sec when Rob Rankin deaked Murphy and again slid the puck under the Phoenix nettie. What amazed me about this goal was, despite the deake Murphy stayed with Rankin and I couldn’t believe it when the goal light was lit!

Third Period: Three goals in this period and sadly an embarrassing scoreline! The Phoenix began brightly and after 47min 45sec MOM (in my eyes) Bruce Mulherin made it 3-2. Any hope of a recovery was killed off in a frenetic 18 second spell. Ben Campbell got the Vipers 4th at 49min 34sec and Ed (Big Nose) Courtney got the 5th at 49min 52sec.

Verdict: Pretty depressing really and a little worrying. The Phoenix were second best all night, the Vipers looked fresh and very quick! This result could have been predicted as the Phoenix are playing a crazy schedule at the moment. I had thought that the Phoenix performance was more the team holding back for the CC Final 2nd leg on Tuesday. But as I think back to it now, it was probably more exhaustion! What worry’s me know is the recovery time, the boys only have one free day where as the Giants will have had two!

Attendance: OK tonight, probably around 1,200 in.

Phoenix TV Highlights:

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So that’s it really, pretty depressing but hey ho, the Vipers can’t catch us, we (probably) wont catch Cardiff. So 6th place it is and as I post a playoff game against the Panthers! At least it wont mean the 50th game against the Giants in a month!

I have a couple of posts on the go or due to get going, a recent post on the Phoenix forum regarding attendances has prompted me to write another post, sort of re-visiting my earlier rant here (link to well supported post). Plus my own post on finals weekend and the various ways to keep up to date.

Finally, you may have noticed the dates for the two legged Knockout Cup Final against the Giants have been agreed and published. If you have read the Phoenix forums you will be aware of the farcical nature of the dates. I had planned to post a quick comment regarding this on today’s game review. However that small post has become a rant in its own right, and one that has been toned down about 4 times to make it family friendly! Anyway ill hopefully have that online tomorrow night!

Monday, 9 March 2009

Phoenix v Belfast 08th March Challenge Cup 1st Leg Game Review

Last night saw the biggest game in Phoenix history! This game was the first leg of the Challenge Cup final against the Belfast Giants. The second leg follows on St Pat’s day in Belfast at the Dundonald Bowl. Going into the game I knew the Phoenix have a good chance in this final, a first leg lead would be imperative! Against a very good Giants squad this was going to be difficult. The Phoenix needed to be on their A game and then some!

First Period: A frenetic opening period saw the Giants make the most of the chances, but thankfully they came up against an inspired Murphy in the Phoenix goal. Some of the seasons best hockey was on display to those in the Dome that first period! Thankfully the breakthrough game from the Phoenix at 06min 46sec when Luke Fulghum fired past Stevie Lyle in the Giants net. The Dome exploded as soon as the red light went on and the fans began to believe.

Second Period: No let up in the second period with the game going end to end, and both net minders were in fine shape. It was the Phoenix who scored the only two goals in the period to take a 3-0 lead. The first, of two in two minutes, came at 24min 06sec when returnee, from injury, Brucey Mulherin lit the light for the second time. The third came from the big man Brett Clouthier at 25min 23sec when he does what he does best, get on the net and put home the rebound. Then step forward David Beauregard who made it 4-0 at 31min 30sec. The reeling Giants called a timeout to reground and it more or less paid dividends with George Awada getting the Giants on the board! Despite this if the Dome was rocking, by the end of the second I think the whole of Altrincham new about it!

Third Period: The third belonged more to the Giants, as the Phoenix recent heavy schedule began to take its toll the Giants came more into the game. After 5 minutes of the period the Giants made it 4-2 through Colin Shields on a delayed penalty call. The game had reached Epic proportions by now and the end to end action did not stop. It was the Giants who got the final goal of the night to bring them within one of the Phoenix, with 5 minutes to play Evan Cheverie fired home. This left the Phoenix holding onto the lead to take to Belfast.

Verdict: Epic, simply epic! Easily the best game of the season, and I would say better than any Shuff/Nottingham game ever could be! A great/heroic performance from the Phoenix, and a damn fine performance from the Giants too! Im sure I share the same opinion of many a Phoenix fan who watched the game that, while we got the win it’s a case of what could have been! The Phoenix were 4-0 up in this game, what a lead to take to Belfast! Still if someone had offered me 4-3 before the game started I would have taken their hand off! The way Iook at it, a win is a win, a lead is a lead! Belfast have to score that goal, and the fact the game is not at the ‘O’ I think will help the Phoenix!

Attendance: Easily the biggest crowd of the year, I would say at least 1,800 in last night! I really wish Phoenix TV could convey the atmosphere, it was rocking in the Dome and as mentioned above that atmosphere could beat the ‘Biggest rivalry in Europe’! For those of you unable to attend I say, you missed an amazing game! To those of you who were there, I salute you!

Anyway a lot to look forward to in the second leg, where either team could really take it! Its also encouraged me for the next final showdown with the Giants in the Knockout Cup! Bring it on I say!

Phoenix TV:

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Saturday, 7 March 2009

Phoenix v Edinburgh 05th March Game Review

Sadly another Thursday night game, another gig for me and another gig spent checking my phone every 5 minutes! The Phoenix have had a run of so called 'easier' games recently, however games against the Bison/Stingray's and Cap's are never easy! They are fighting for the remaining playoff spots so need the win just as much as the Phoenix! So while I would expect the Phoenix to win this one, I expected a tough fight from the Caps!

First Period: After some good early pressure it was not until the 9th minute when Tony Hand, yes Tony Hand took a shot and scored! How I wish he would shoot the puck more! Despite the early goal and the Phoenix shading the pressure they came up against the excellent Raitanen in the Caps goal.

Second Period: After just three minutes in the second the game sprung into life, a shot from the point from Alex Dunn was tipped in by Brett Clouthier. This goal going to show the value of getting bodies on the net and shooting! Things will always happen! Especially with Brett in the way! The Phoenix then got into penalty trouble giving the Caps a 5 on 3 and in the 26th minute Mark Hurtubise brought the score to 2-1 Phoenix. Towards the end of the period Mr Hand managed to get a 10 minute misconduct penalty. This seems to have been dreamt up by Mr Coenen the ref, as no one in the Dome saw why? Edinburgh had previously got away with a tripping penalty behind the Phoenix net, and all Mr Hand had to do to get the misconduct was shake his head! Madness!

Third Period: Despite a number of early chances in the third period the Phoenix let the Caps back into the game. Taylor Christie scored the Scots equalizer at 54mins. Thankfully this spurred the Phoenix into action, and thanks to the Elite League's leading scored Mr Beauregard the points were secured. Beauregard's first of the night came, as so many have done, when the Caps defence left the French-Canadian free at the back post! The 4th goal and second in the last four minutes when Beauregard pounced on a free puck in the Phoenix goal to shoot into the empty Caps net. Netting his 55th of the season and making the score 4-2.

Verdict: As I was not there I cant really comment much, other than to say another tricky match negotiated and two points collected! Now a away trip to Hull awaits before the big one! The home 1st leg of the Challenge Cup final versus the Giants.

Attendance: No idea really but as it was a midweek game id guess it was around the 1,000 mark!

Another tricky couple of games completed, but now the business begins! The first cup final games are on us, and the second round of cup games soon to be decided!

Go Phoenix Go!

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Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Phoenix v Basingstoke 03rd March Game Review

The Phoenix are in the middle of a fixture crunch at the moment, last nights game was a re-run of a week last Sundays first attempt at playing this fixture. That game was called off as the Basingstoke bus broke down and decided to explode around Birmingham. The hockey gods must have had something in for this fixture as it almost happened again last night! Details to follow!

As mentioned this game is part of a hectic march for the Phoenix, with a million games in a month! (OK slight exaggeration there but still!). Never the less points are still up for grabs and that 5th place is to be taken back! I would usually expect home games against the Bison to be won and won easily. But the Bison are no pushover, especially with the excellent Reiter in goal!

First Period: For the first few minutes the Bison had the better chances but in the end the extra quality the Phoenix have started to show through. The first goal was a thing of beauty, a Phoenix 3 on 1 break saw a quick stick to stick exchange between Kyle Bruce and Lucas Burnett which left Burnett free on the back post to slot home! Phew first goal to the Phoenix. From then on the Phoenix pressed home the advantage and in the final minute of the period Alex Dunn slotted home a power play goal at 19min 19sec.

Second Period: The aforementioned hockey gods were obviously not pleased with this fixture when, 28 seconds into the period the Dome was, momentarily, plunged into darkness. After a 10minute cool down the lights were back up and we were underway!
Kyle Bruce and Lucas Burnett combined again after 30min 21sec to produce a more or less identical goal to the first of the night! The game was wrapped up less than two minutes later, when at 32min 09sec, Brett Clouthier latched onto a centring pass and scored a lovely breakaway goal.

Third Period: A combination of the Phoenix easing off and the Bison continuing their hard work almost allowed the Herd back into the game. The excellent Reiter held the Phoenix at bay for most of the period, and the Bison scored twice to give the tie some respectability. The first for the Herd at 44min 38sec came from Shaun Thomson and the second at 54min 52sec from Ivo Mocek. The Herd replaced Reiter with Graeme Bird for the last 10 minutes, ish, and pressed for more goals. The Phoenix, however, stood strong and the last goal of the game was an empty netter for Luke Fulgham at 59min 06sec.

Verdict: The Phoenix did just about enough to get the win and not suffer any major crisis or injury. In the end I do think the scoreline flattered the Herd a little. In reality Basingstoke are having a tough time, the team are poor and were it not for Reiter in net the score could have been double figures for the Phoenix. I only hope we do see the Bison in the top flight next season! The only black mark for the Phoenix, for me, would be letting the Bison back into the game in the third. But that’s a minor point.

Attendance: Poor, pushing 1,000 if we were lucky! A couple of things contributed to the poor crowd: Midweek game, Cold weather, Playing the Bison (no way support – except, rather randomly two Sheffield fans!), Re-Arranged fixture and a further 5 home games this month! Not including an extra home Cup final and home leg of the playoffs!

So next up for the Phoenix is the visit of the Capitals this Thursday night, sadly its a game im missing due to gig commitments. Ill be eagerly checking my phone for updates from the game. Its another game we should win comfortably, but you can never take wins for granted. Ill do a quick review based on reports from the game as normal and that should appear Friday if all goes well!

Last nights game is the beginning of March madness for the Phoenix, and here’s why:

Thu 5th March – Capitals – Home
Sat 7th March – Stingrays – Away
Sun 8th March – Giants – Home (CC Final)
Wed 11th March – Devils – Away
Thu 12th March – Devils – Home
Sat 14th March – Bison – Away
Sun 15th March – Vipers - Home
Tue 17th March – Giants – Away (CC Final)
Thu 19th March – Stingrays – Home
Sat 21st March – Capitals – Away
Sun 22nd March – Giants – Home

Add to that the two legs of the Knockout Cup v Devils/Giants and a two legged playoff game the Phoenix are looking at a possible 15 games in March! I just hope that the heavy fixture schedule does not harm the Phoenix’ best chance of winning some silverware this season!

So keep an eye on this blog as March is going to be a busy time for it, and the Phoenix!

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Anyway, as ever go support local hockey!

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Phoenix v Coventry 28th February Game Review

Just before I launch into my usual game review, I would like to extend my own personal thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of Dave Page. For those of you who don't know Dave Page was the official photographer for the Nottingham Panthers. While I never knew him, it seems like he was a well loved figure in Nottingham and around the Elite League. It is always sad when someone so valuable is lost. For a great tribute to Dave head on over to The Cat's Whiskers and have a read of a tribute by Johno.

So a rare Saturday home game for the Phoenix, and a weekend with only one game for the Phoenix. Quite why we could not play the re-arranged Bison fixture to help alleviate the potential fixture pileup we now have! Anyway this was the Blaze’s last visit to the Dome for the season. The previous encounter saw the Phoenix record their first win over the Blaze for blumin ages! So hopes were relatively high for this encounter. As ever the Phoenix needed to be playing their A game, any less and we would get hammered!

First Period: Well the first 20mins just showed the gulf that truly exists between the Phoenix and the Blaze. Thoroughly outplayed in the first 20 saw the Blaze race to a 3-0 lead. Goals were scored at 11min 06sec, 13min 11sec and 17min 32sec, the scorers Deschatelets, Cowley and Hjalmarsson respectively. It was painful to watch as a Phoenix fan, this was defiantly a period that brought the Phoenix down to earth! The Blaze were in great form playing some great hockey, fast, flowing and raining shots down on Murphy in the Phoenix net.

Second Period: After the first 20mins the Phoenix must have been shell-shocked, however after the break a much more effective Phoenix emerged. Playing tighter and starting to nullify the Blaze attack the Phoenix finally got on the board at 35min 13sec through the big man Clouthier. This was a goal which showed what the Phoenix should have been doing all along! Get the puck on the net and send guys in to make things happen. A shot from the point, rebound and Brett was there to slot home the rebound. Id say that was an even period!

Third Period: Unfortunately the final 20mins was not to be, the Blaze turned on the class and with the Phoenix now playing their 7th game in 15 days fatigue began to set in. The Blaze got on the board first at 42min 55sec through a short handed goal from Calder. Sadly this really was the end for the Phoenix. Though not all hope had evaporated when at43min 39sec Clouthier appeared to deflect a shot from the point to bring the scores to 4-2. This goal was later adjusted to give it to Kenton Smith. Despite battling on the Phoenix were to concede two further goals at 53min 24sec and 55min 50sec, through Moore and Cowley respectively, This now had the scoreboard at 6-2 Blaze and a few Phoenix fans heading for the door!

Verdict: Tough game for the Phoenix, I think a couple of things, namely the schedule, playing the Blaze really came to a head. The Phoenix were only good enough for 20mins of this game and that, when against the Blaze, is not good enough! The difference in class was also on show, the Blaze were able to run 3 full strength lines and the Phoenix were not able to cope.
So a disappointing result, disappointing performance, I just hope our glut of fixtures in March does not have a detrimental affect on our season! We are now 4 points behind the Devils with 3 games in hand and 5th is defiantly a possibility! It’s the cup games im worried about, we cant win the league so a cup success is our only option. But with all the league games yet to play plus another 4 cup final games and Playoff Qualifiers to come, im worried the Phoenix will be too tired for any!

Attendance: Id say an average gate Saturday night, nothing special despite Sunday following this game. Good noise from the Blaze fans, id put the crowd at about 1,300.

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Monday, 2 March 2009

Phoenix v Newcastle 26th February Knockout Cup 2nd Leg Game Review

So last Thursday night saw the second leg of our Knockout Cup semi-final versus the Newcastle Vipers. This was going to be a tight game despite the 4-1 lead the Phoenix had from the first leg. As anyone who is into hockey will know, it only takes a couple of seconds to score! As happened in Thursdays second leg (at one point) so a 3 goal lead is not much in reality!

Sadly I could not attend this game, the match clashed with the Metallica/Machine Head gig at the MEN Arena Thursday night, which I had some pretty decent seats at! So I had to rely on text updates from a mate at the game. For a full and detailed game review check out the Five Minute Major and The Pyre blogs, written by Matt/Becky and Rob respectively.

As with previous reviews ill make a few comments and will update my blog with video highlights when they become available!

Anyway onto the game:

First Period: By all accounts it seemed like the Phoenix had the better of the opening period, creating many chances. Only to be kept at bay by Verner in the Vipers goal. Thankfully the first goal (which was crucial in this type of game) came by way of the Phoenix at 3min 44sec when Nathan Ward struck his 15th goal of the season. Not to be outdone the Vipers ensured this was to be a close game when Mark Goett scored his second of the season at 16min 38sec.

Second Period: A mere 40 minutes now stood in the way of the Phoenix’ second trip into a cup final tie of the season. Im sure a fair few nerves were set jangling when it was the Vipers who scored first in the period, when at 27min 24sec the veteran Longstaff netted his 32nd of the season. This narrowed the score to 5-3 in favour of the Phoenix. A collective sigh of relief must have been emitted at 30min 30sec when Alex Dunn scored his 11th of the season.

Third Period: A manic opening minute saw the Phoenix take the lead in the game and extend the lead to 4-3 on the night and 8-4 overall. The first came from David Beauregard who, at 40min 23sec scored his 56th of the season. Followed a minute later by Brett Clouthier’s 7th of the season at 41min 26sec. As mentioned at the start it only takes a couple of seconds to score in hockey, and, a bizarre goal by the sounds of things. Likit Andersson scored at 41min 26sec with a shot from the resulting face off which surprised Smurf and crept under his pads. Thankfully the Phoenix held on and each team traded a goal in the last 3 minutes of the game. Jeff Hutchins scored for the Vipers at 57min 06sec and Kyle Bruce scored an empty netter for the Phoenix at 58min 22sec.

Verdict: As I was not at the game I cant really comment much, other than being chuffed the Phoenix managed to get the win and progress to the final. A tricky tie against the Vipers, as neither team can expect league success it leaves us with the Cup competitions, because of this any team will be up for the game! So now the Phoenix will progress to their second cup final of the season. Despite our league placing, this is turning out to be a vintage season for the Phoenix. Im sure, if you offered any Phoenix fan who attends the home games in the Dome two cup final appearances in a season, they would have torn your arm off! Now all we have to try and do is to win them!

We have a challenge cup final against the Giants, and now Knockout Cup final against the Devils or, again, the Giants! So Sheffield/Nottingham fans, can you say your team has made it to two finals this season? No I didn’t think so! Say what you want about the cup competitions, but if you faced a season with no success versus a season with a cup win, which would you choose?

Attendance: From reports it sounds like it was not a great attendance inside the Dome, but a great atmosphere none the less!

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