The weekend just gone was possibly the toughest the Phoenix have faced so far this season. A home and away set against the Guildford Flames. First points would be heading back with the Phoenix from the Spectrum thanks to a 3-1 victory.
The Phoenix moving 5 points clear and having the opportunity to go 7 clear with a win on home ice. The omens were not great when the team bus broke down just off the M40 heading for Altrincham, forcing the boys to spend a good 3 hours on the roadside awaiting recovery. Even so a large crowd turned up sunday evening to watch the (current) two best clubs in the EPL do battle.
First Period: The early billing looked to be justified as both clubs went at it from the off! The game was played at such a pace, that I worried a little about the Phoenix keeping the pace up given they only arrived back into Altrincham at 5am that morning. Even so both clubs created chance after chance and both goalies forced into early saves. It was interesting to see how much the games between the two clubs meant to Tom Duggan and Joe Graham, having swapped clubs over the summer. Both players really playing hard. With the all the action during the period it was a little surprising that only one goal separated the sides after the first 20 minutes. Marcus Kristoffersson scoring in the fourth minute to ignite the Dome.
Second Period: Unfortunately it was the second period that undid the Phoenix. In a sign of how tight the game was, it took three mistakes for the Flames to effectively win the game. In a little over three minutes the Flames leapt to a 3-1 lead. Two defensive mistakes and a Flames playing returning to the ice after a penalty giving the Flames an instant 2 on 1 hurt the Phoenix badly. The game tying goal came after 27min 50sec to Nathan Rempell, the Flames second coming at 30min 15sec through Ben Campbell and the Flames third coming after 31min 09sec. There was plenty of shock and disbelief in the stands as Phoenix fan's wondered how their team had gone from a position of strength to being, effectively, out the game so quickly. As often in these situations Sir Tony of Hand will take it upon himself to set things right. Last night was no different. The Phoenix needed a goal before the break badly, 3-2 in the final 20minutes is a big change in prospects from a 3-1 deficit.Tony scored after 32min 28sec when a break out with Kristoffersson allowed Tony to deak Hala and hold out long enough for the big man to drop to the floor an allow a bit of space for Tony to score.
Third Period: The last 20 kept on at the same pace as the previous two, but will be remembered for one thing. Before we get to that, it was important for the Phoenix to get the next goal. The Flames had other idea's! Coming back to haunt the Phoenix, much like Tom Duggan did the other night, Joe Graham saw Paul Dixon emerging from the penalty box who took the puck up the ice to score, extending the Flames lead to 4-2. Game over! Or was it? After 53min 51sec the Phoenix scored their third goal. This goal has set the forum's alight, after Phoenix pressure Tom Duggan took the puck to the side of the Flames goal and lifted it over Hala into the net. Hala goes mental at this point insisting the net was off its moorings, what followed was a heated on-ice debate with Hala and Longstaff showing some pretty unsportsmanlike behavior. In the end the goal was given and the Phoenix had about 8 minutes to find an equalizer. The debate has been, should the goal have stood or not? According to the rule's, if a goalie who deliberately pushes the net from its moorings then he gives away a penalty shot. I have also seen, quoting Tambo from the Phoenix forum, a referee has the discretion to award a goal if the puck was clearly going into the goal when the goal was kicked from its moorings. Now I will never claim to know the EPL rulebook, or weather the referee got it right or wrong. In my opinion (warning Phoenix tinted specs firmly in place) the goal stands. I absolutely hate it when goalies deliberately dislodge goals, pure cheating, no two ways about it! Hala certainly didn't endear himself to the crowd when a few moments later, after stopping the puck, falling to the floor like he'd been shot by a sniper, and hurling his blocker 6 foot into the air and then getting up as if nothing had happened. All I would say is this, coupled with the 'goal incident', Hala mate, Karma's a bitch!
Anyway not alot else happened in the period really, the Phoenix kept up the pressure but just couldn't find their fourth goal, so it ended 4-3 to the Flames and both sides sharing two points a piece leaving things as they were at the top of the table.
Verdict: An opportunity missed for the Phoenix, im not making excuses but the clubs return from Guildford did not help things. In reality the second period cost us the game, too many mistakes were made and, while you can get away with them against the Tigers/Steeldog's/Bees etc....against the Flames, you wont! Plus the Phoenix were wasteful in front of goal, there were at least 3 or 4 clear scoring opportunities that went begging. I certainly thought the Phoenix deserved a point out of the game and wouldn't have begrudged the Flames an OT win. In the end it was a win apiece for both clubs, but im sure both would have preferred home wins! Must make a quick shout out to Paddy from A View from the Bridge, and British Ice Hockey blog....fame for some humorous banter regarding that 'goal'. Why not follow him on twitter too @patricksmyth, top fella and am chuffed to get to know the guy better!
Attendance: Given that our previous biggest crowd was just over 1,100 against MK, I would say last nights crowd must have been touching 1,200.
Phoenix 3 Guildford 4 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 3 Guildford 4 - CB Sport Article