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!