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!