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.