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.