Not bad for first time visitors!The first semi-final saw Lightning slayers Swindon take on the Guildford Flames. An obvious candidate for a walkover, but lest we forget who the Wildcats knocked out to get to Coventry! The Phoenix would be up next in the evening semi against the Slough Jets. A team who have had the better of the Phoenix over the course of the season!
Semi Final 1 - Swindon v Guildford
This semi final had the potential for a surprise! Sadly the team that knocked out the Lightning did not turn up. The Flames totally dominated this game, the extra skill on the Guildford bench pinning the Wildcats into their own zone for most of the game. Swindon, despite having the support of most of the arena, could not get through centre ice. Resorting to icing the puck and trying to help Douglass out in the Swindon goal. On a separate note, what a goaltender! He single handedly kept the Wildcats in the game. So despite the early optimism held by fans other than Flames fans, Swindon could not pull off another shock and the Flames won through to the final with a 5-2 victory.
Semi Final 2 - Slough v Manchester
This was the moment Phoenix fans had long waited for. The appearance of a team from Manchester at a league playoff finals weekend. The test for the Phoenix the Slough Jets. It would take nothing but the best from the Phoenix to play Guildford in the final. The Phoenix made a great start and more than held their own against the Jets. The Phoenix even took the lead, sending most of the arena into delirium. The Jets did, however, continue to press the Phoenix, Blaz Emersic tormenting the Phoenix defence. Stephen Fone was called into action and was standing on his head. Sadly for the Phoenix the Jets would take the lead over the course of the game, with that man Emersic doing the damage. In the end the Jets won 2-1, however the Phoenix had more than held their own. I don't think you could find one Phoenix fan who was not proud of their team!
EPL Playoff Final - Slough v Guildford
The irresistible force meets the immovable object, and the final no one, other than Flames/Jets fans really wanted. The Final would be a tense affair for two sets of fans, and a tad boring for the rest! The Flames had all the attacking flair, however just could not break down the well organised defence of the Slough Jets. Chances were limited, and even when a chance did appear Lee and Rockman in the goals were in outstanding form. The game was 1-1 heading into overtime after a very close 60minutes of play. In the period of overtime, the Jets were presented with a gold opportunity to win the game. Greener was sent clean through on Lee, when he was brought down by the Flames defence. Penalty shot! A perfectly valid one, despite what any Flames fan will tell you! Blaz Emersic, that man again! Stepped up and took a wonderful penalty shot! Shelving the puck past Lee to win the cup for the Jets. Final score 2-1 after overtime.
What happened next was a little unsavoury. As the goal light lit, the Flames team immediately skated over and started abusing the referee. This was totally uncalled for, it was a perfectly legal call by the referee! Even us Phoenix fans at the far end of the arena could tell it was a penalty shot! Sadly some Flames fans were no better! With the Slough coach over at their bench, there were a fair few unsavoury gestures aimed in his direction! Along with a few bottles too! I know the Slough coach is not totally blameless, however Hockey prides itself on being a family friendly sport, and the actions of a few tarred the Flames support in general!
Anyway, a great weekend was had by us Phoenix fans and im sure the Phoenix will be back in 2011 in the final! This team have come so far, and if you had offered me, 3rd place, a Cup Semi-final and a Playoff Final weekend appearance, I would have taken your arm off!
Well done Phoenix and well done Phoenix fans!
Ive added a few pictures below, just some of my favourites from the weekend.
Various Phoenix banners: