The Angry Budgie Live

Friday, 23 December 2011

Phoenix v Milton Keynes Lightning 18th December Game Review

MK visited the Ice Dome sunday night for another installment of their rivalry with the Phoenix. So far, since the arrival into the EPL the Phoenix/MK battles have always been a highlight for me. Two teams who like to play hockey, and are a joy to watch. Plus the MK faithful always travel in numbers and make plenty of noise. Last sunday was no exception! Prior to sundays action the Phoenix traveled south to Slough and the result.....well.....less said about that the better!

Anyway onto the MK game:

First Period: I will admit, going into this game I was not expecting much for the Phoenix, I expected us to come out of the game empty handed! How wrong could I have been? The spanking down in Slough looked like it hurt the Phoenix, and they came out fighting against MK. The game started fast, it started physical, some bi hits being handed out. The likes of Harabin, Spelda, Wood and Long meeting out some great hits. It would be the Phoenix third line that got the first goal. A real beaut it was too! Hard work from Duggan down the left wing created a 2 on 1 with Ciaran Long, Tom found Ciaran and Ciaran scored the first goal of the game. The joy in the celebration was matched by the joy in the stands. A real reward for those two who work hard on each and every shift. That first goal coming at 7min 36sec. The Phoenix continued to press and another goal followed, Martin Cingel getting in on the act scoring at 11min 55sec. The period continued much the same with both teams battling and the fans in the stands creating a memorable atmosphere! The period ended 2-0 Phoenix, but the dreaded second period was up next!

Second Period: After the Phoenix edged the first, much to MK's surprise, MK upped their game in the second and it proved to be an even contest. The same hard flowing hockey continued and it really was great to watch. Each and every fan getting their moneys worth! Only one goal came in the period and it came to MK, Jamieson scoring at 26min 06sec.

Third Period: With just one goal in it the Phoenix had to expect MK to come hard in the final session. They did and on the PP were able to tie the game. An excellent PP with MK moving the puck around quickly and that man, Jamieson again, popped up to score the game tying goal, at 46min 07sec. Despite being pegged back, the Phoenix showed no signs of caving in, regrouped and began to re-assert their stamp on the game. Going into the last 10minutes the Phoenix would seal the game. Martin Cingel scoring his second of the night at 52min 19sec then his hattrick goal following at 57min 41sec. This one a real killer, as Cingel threw the puck on net from the red line, and found the smallest game between Mettam's pads and the post. Cue delirium in the stands.

Verdict: Having lost the previous 3 homes games and an absolute spanking in Slough the night before the mood in the Ice Dome was tense. But the fans rose to the occasion and created an awesome atmosphere. The MK faithful did their bit and contributed to a fantastic nights entertainment, and the teams rose to it too. Phoenix/MK is a battle that cannot be missed. The Phoenix put in a performance we knew they could do, but for some reason couldn't so far this season. The 9-0 in Slough the catalyst for an awesome response sunday night. The Phoenix played fast, skillful and hard, they put in lots of hits and harassed the MK players all game. As a result they could own the ice. This was a big game for the Phoenix and the fans, and neither disappointed!

Attendance: Great crowd, great noise, with the extra away fans in, ill guess at 1,200 in the Ice Dome.

Phoenix 4 MK 2 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 4 MK 2 - CB Sport

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Phoenix v Guildford Flames 11th December Game Review

The Flames came to the ice dome saturday night and in doing so, brought back Phoenix favourites Curtis Huppe and Andrew Sharp to Altrincham. Going into the game the Phoenix form suggested this would be a walkover for Guildford although, having said that, the Phoenix usually play better on a saturday now! Even so, with the Phoenix hit by injuries, although boosted by three Metro's ENL players joining the bench, the Phoenix would still be understaffed against a strong Flames roster. How the Phoenix would love to have the luxury of 'extra' players sitting around to bring in! Anyway, games against the Flames have always been fun, as they are a team, like the Phoenix, who like to play hockey.

First Period: The first period started and continued with some great end to end hockey, both sides working hard but Guildford did edge the opening exchanges. Enjoying the greater of the possession the Flames began to increase the pressure on the Phoenix, and their slick style began to open up holes in the Phoenix defence. So it was no surprise that the Flames took the lead, Branislav Kvetan opening the scoring at 10min 09sec. Nathan Rempel doubled their lead less than four minutes later at 13min 42sec. Even at this early stage it looked like lights out for the Phoenix. But, count them out at your peril, current Phoenix hero Tom Duggan finally got the Phoenix on the board when his perseverance was rewarded with a goal, coming at 17min 23sec.

Second Period: The second started in the worst possible way when the Flames, on the power play, extended their lead. The usual PP format so far was, the Phoenix being unable to set up in the Flames zone when enjoying the man advantage, and the Flames set up and camped in the Phoenix zone. The goal, brilliantly worked, came from ex Phoenix sniper Curtis Huppe. Scoring just 23sec into the period. At 2min 53sec Rick Plant extended Guildford's lead to 4-1, a massive mountain for the Phoenix to climb to get anything from this game. Astonishingly the Phoenix powerplay worked and the deficit was cut by one goal as Cingel scored at 12min 40sec. Despite the scoreline so far, the Phoenix had maintained their effort during this game, which marked a nice change from recent home games.

Third Period: This got interesting in the third period, as Guildford had done in the second, the Phoenix scored a quick goal to make it tense. Ciaran Long, like Tom Duggan, getting a reward for his tireless performances scoring 47sec into the final session. The large crowd in the dome picked up and the atmosphere really got rocking. Iv'e never been to the Spectrum but, by most accounts it's a library, so I urge the Guildford fans who were in attendance, that is what an atmosphere should be! Bouncing! The Phoenix continued to press and, astonishingly, began to dominate the Flames. Yes, you read that right, the Phoenix, with their depleted resources and sketchy home form, were bossing the Flames. They pressed and pressed and, going into the final minute, pulled Fone for the extra attacker. The Flames were able to police their own zone and managed to break Phoenix hearts with an empty net goal from Jez Lundin at 19min 40sec.

Verdict: The dire expectations before the puck drop proved to be unfounded. This was a good performance from the Phoenix, much more heart and effort shown and a battling performance against a very good Flames team. Taking my Phoenix spec's off I do believe the Phoenix deserved something from the game. Maybe not the win, but a point at least. But myself, and many others, left the Ice Dome buoyed by the improved performance on the ice. Now the Flames, they look the part this year, best performance by a visiting team so far in Altrincham. With the team they have, they should win this league. Where it may fall down for them is their goaltending, Lee is not quite the best in the EPL and could prove to be the only (slight) weak link.

Attendance: Some more newbies in for the game, and they were treated to something special. I'd say around 1,200 in the Ice Dome.

Phoenix 3 Guildford 5 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 3 Guildford 5 - CB Sport
Phoenix 3 Guildford 5 - Guildford Article

The Phoenix played away sunday over in Peterborough, a tough place to get a result, but the Phantoms are now without Stephen Wall. A big factor in their ability to get results. That said, the Phoenix are inconsistent at the moment and lacking numbers. Thankfully the Phoenix avoided a null point weekend and got the win and a valuable two points. Even more pleasingly, as I have mentioned before there has been alot of recent negativity directed towards Juraj Faith, alot of it unwarranted in my eyes. One poster on the Phoenix forum even going so far as to suggest we fire him and fill his roster place with a metros player. Imagine my wry smile when Faith picked up two goals and the MOM from the Phantoms game sunday night. Where's your smart comments now, hey?

Friday, 9 December 2011

Phoenix v Basingstoke Bison 4th December Game Review

LinkThe past weekend saw the Phoenix take on the Bees in Bracknell and the Basingstoke Bison in the Altrincham Ice Dome. Games against the Bees are no easy task nowerdays, after they poached the dangerous duo of Masa and Smital. That being said if you are able to deal with those two, you just have to contend with their physical play. Thankfully the Phoenix did the job and emerged with a credible 6-2 victory. The game will be remembers for Luke 'The Killer' Boothroyd handing it out to Scott Spearing and has instantly become a Phoenix hero!

Onto sunday and the not so insignificant prospect of the Basingstoke Bison, a team the Phoenix moved to the EPL with and one who the Phoenix enjoy many a good game. So far this season each side has been unable to beat the other in their own rink, weird!! The last meeting between the sides came in Bisonland and the Phoenix left the Basingstoke arena with the win. Back at the Dome you would hope for a home win, but history in this series, and the Phoenix current rollercoaster form spoke otherwise!

First Period: With recent games in mind the Phoenix faithful began the game with a certain edge or nervousness, that quickly disappeared as the Phoenix came out the blocks fighting. This was a physical performance from the Phoenix, they came out and worked hard, hit hard, and really dominated the opening stages. It would be no surprises then, that the Phoenix got on the board first, when Koulikov out the first goal on the board for the Phoenix at 3min 18sec, continuing his current hot streak. The Phoenix doubled their lead just after the ninth minute when Martin Cingel got on the scoresheet scoring from the back post off an excellent centering pass by Koulikov. Two goals up and, sadly, the Phoenix looked like they eased off and began to let the Bison back into the game. Kubenko who, had been quiet in the game so far, really came on in the latter half of the first period. He is big, very skillful and a dangerous player. He scored the Bison's first goal at 12.26 to make the scores 2-1.

Second Period: The second period would prove to be a killer, the Phoenix began to tire and commit some pretty bad mistakes in the defensive zone and leaving Fone out to dry. A 45 second spell at the halfway period of the game did it for the Phoenix. First Kubenko stepped up once again to score at 29min 17sec to tie the game. Then the killer, go ahead goal came from Joe Miller. Advancing down the far wing he moved past the Phoenix defence with ease, dragged the puck into the middle, waited for Fone to commit and slotted the puck easily into the open net. A real gutting goal and one that took the wind right out Phoenix sails.

Third Period: Damage limitation or a fight back? Despite loosing the lead the Phoenix tried to dig deep and get something from the game. They worked hard, but missing Hand/Wallace and other players not being 100% really began to show and the Phoenix tired. Within the first two minutes, however, the Ice Dome would see, possibly, the goal of the season. Its one worth checking out Phoenix TV from the 6th December just to watch it over and over again! Ladislav Harabin had the puck behind the Phoenix net, only to set off up the ice and deak/stick handle his way through the entire Bison line, while being slashed/tripped to slot the puck into the top right shelf while on his knees! A real show reel goal, and one that showcases his skill and strength! The home side on a high? Sadly the Bison would hit back and score, what would be the game winning goal, through Nicky Chinn at 46min 10sec. One goal down, going into the final minute, the Phoenix call a timeout and pull Steve Fone. The Bison also pick up a penalty so the Phoenix go 6 on 4, the 30sec with the advantage were spent in centre ice or the Phoenix zone as they never got set up. So a disappointing 4-3 loss in the end!

Verdict: Quite where and when this win/loss form will end for the Phoenix is anyone's guess. But with Wallace out till the new year and Hand unknown as to when he will return. The Phoenix injury crisis does not look like its going to end soon! The game was another frustrating one, a good first period, bad second, and a fighting/tired third period from the Phoenix against a Bison side they know they can beat. The Bison were good, not great, but played a good road game in frustrating the Phoenix. The most worrying aspect from the night for me, we had 500 newbies in the Ice Dome, who witnessed a bad loss, like the Slough game these home losses will start to hurt, As I've tweeted for a while, I would absolutely trade this good away wins for home wins right now!

Attendance: Boosted by the 500 newbies in the Ice Dome there must have been a crowd of 1,100 to 1,200 in the Ice Dome.

Phoenix 3 Basingstoke 4 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 3 Basingstoke 4 - Bison Article
Phoenix 3 Basingstoke 4 - CB Sport

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Desert Dogs-a-Howlin' - November

October is done and in the can, November will prove to be a tough month for the Coyotes. 13 games and a killer five game road trip in the middle visiting both the west and east coasts of America!

@ Avalanche, The Coyotes opened November with a trip to Colorado and the Mile High city to take on the Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche came into the game with a good record, 7 wins going into the game and the Yotes came in on the back of a two game winning streak. It would be a tough game for the team from the desert and needed some big performances. The Coyotes got them, once again Mike Smith came up big in the game turning away 39 of 40 shots to give the Yotes dependable goaltending. Of the skaters Radim Vrbata had a two goal game including one spectacular goal as he was taken down from behind. While the Coyotes advanced to a third win in a row, they condemned the Avalanche to their fourth defeat in five on home ice. The team famed for its sell out streak is struggling! The Coyotes....are starting to warm up!

v Predators, Nashville, a difficult place to play a game and, with Rinne fresh from signing a seven year $49mil contract extension the Coyotes had to get past a goalie who would be in the form of his life and happier than larry! Unfortunately for the Dog's luck was just not on their side in Nashville, LeBarbara started in place of the red hot Mike Smith and was done by two pieces of bad luck, nothing to do with him! The first was the go ahead goal for the Predators which went through traffic and the legs of a Nashville player before sneaking past LeBarbaba. The second was a turnover from Korpikoski which gave the Predators a 2 on 0. In the end, the birthday boy millionaire was in such good form the Coyotes were unable to breakthrough and left Nashville with null points!

v Oilers, After the loss in Nashville the Coyotes returned home to take on the hot Edmonton Oilers who went into the game on the back of a six game winning streak. A scoreless first period gave way to a two goal second period which would give the Coyotes the edge. Daymond Langkow and Adrian Aucoin scored goals and the Coyotes defence strangled the Oilers offence to send the Yotes on the way to a 4-2 victory. Further goals coming from Boyd Gordon and a sixth for Ray Whitney, an empty net goal. This defence first mentality the Coyotes brought to the ice also brought head coach Dave Tippet his 100th win behind the Yotes bench. What better way than to celebrate the milestone with a home win at the Jobing!

v Canadiens, The Coyotes second game at home, in a row, saw the men from Montreal come to the desert. The Canadiens arrived missing three forwards and facing a three game skid the Canadiens would be hungry. With Langkow missing due to family reasons the Phoenix toplines had to be juggled around and it showed. With the Coyotes goals coming from their third and fourth lines. Despite withstanding a 34 shot Montreal first period the Coyotes could not get the win in regulation. But thanks to Mikkel Boedker and Raffi Torres the game went to OT, only for the Canadiens Josh Gorges to seal the extra point for the Canadiens. Against a team like Montreal who, I would expect to be challenging come the post season, to get a point, im a happy Coyotes fan. While a home win would be so much better, 1 point is better than a big fat 0!

@ Sharks, After the loss to Montreal the Phoenix headed to California to face division rivals the San Jose Sharks. This game would also give the Coyotes a chance to atone for their opening day loss to the Sharks in Cali, when they allowed 52 shots. So far this season the Coyotes have been red hot when scoring first, since Dave Tippet took over the Coyotes have won 73 games when scoring first. It's almost like the stars were aligning for a Phoenix win after the first period, as the Yotes exploded out the blocks. After the first session the Yotes were 2-0 to the good through goals from Vrbata and Boyd Gordon. The Coyotes now had to ensure that lead was not surrendered! Step up Mike Smith, he did and then some! Only one more goal would be a Coyote! Patrick O'Sullivan got the insurance and Mike Smith got the shutout!

@ Maple Leafs, The Phoenix roadtrip continued with a trip to Toronto to face an improved Maple Leafs, after picking up an OT loss and a win the Coyotes were up to 3 points so far on the road trip. The Coyotes once again played an excellent first period and, again, would find themselves 2-0 up after the first session. First period goals from Shane Doan and Oliver Ekman-Larsson would see the Yotes into the lead up until the third period. Mike Komisarek and Phil Kessel brought the Leafs back into the game, and forced OT. With no goals scored we went to every fan's favourite hockey time, the shootout! Thankfully Mike Smith came up big again and saved both Toronto's attempts in the shootout while O'Sullivan and Vrbata scored with theirs, giving the Yotes the win!

@ Flyers, Next up for the Yotes roadtrip was a trip to Philadelphia and the first game against ex Coyotes Ilya Bryzgalov. The game would turn out to be an old fashioned goalie duel with new Phoenix nettie Mike Smith coming up against his predecessor. In fact, so tight was the game that, it was only decided with just 18.6seconds left on the clock. The Flyers went ahead in the second period through James van Riemsdyk only for Boedker to tie the game early in the third period. Matt Read got the winning goal and give Bryzgalov the win against his old team. The victory for the Flyers also broke the Coyotes five game road win streak.

@ Sabres, The Coyotes turned north and headed to Buffalo for game four of this roadtrip and for the first time ever in his NHL career gave Paul Bissonnette a chance to play in front of family. With around 50 family in attendance Bissonnett would break a 2-2 tie and give the Coyotes the go-ahead goal and impetus to win. Towards the mid point of the game Phoenix and Buffalo traded goals. Doan and Vrbata scoring for Phoenix and Adam and Kaleta scoring for the Sabres. In fact Vrbata and Bissonnette's goals came within 70 seconds of each other and really knocked the stuffing out of the Sabres. Buffalo only managed 15 shots after and the Coyotes were the only team to score another goal. Radim Vrbata getting his second of the game, an empty net goa, with just over a minute to go.

@ Capitals, The last stop in the Coyotes west to east roadtrip ended in the nations capital against the Capitals. In the end it was almost de-ja-vu for the Coyotes, facing an opposition on the slide and a head coach on the cusp of a milestone victory. The capitals on the back of a 6 in 7 loss streak and Boudreau looking for win number 200! Phoenix, with LeBarbara in net looked to spoil the party by jumping to a 2-0 lead through goals from Vrbata and Korpikoski, both short handed in fact look to have put the Yotes on the way. Only for Washington to score 4 unanswered to ultimately win the game. That comeback coming from Carlson, Eakin, Backstrom and Laich. Korpikoski would get his second of the game to bring the Yotes within one, but the comeback was not to be and the Caps held out for Boudreau's 200th win.

v Ducks, The Yotes returned to warmer and more familiar climbs after their epic road trip, to begin a three game homestand against Division rivals the Ducks. Despite the Ducks scoring first through Koivu the Coyotes hit right back with 4 unanswered goals to win the game. Mike Smith proving he has the Ducks figured out improved to 5-0-1 against the Ducks. The Phoenix hot streak came from Yandle, Eckman-Larsson and current player in form Vrbata with two. Vrbata's pair of goals lifting him to 11 for the season. Corey Perry would get his 8th of the season and the Ducks second of the game but the Yotes got the win and began the homestand with the W.

v Canucks, Last seasons Stanley Cup finalists were next to come to the desert and bring the much heralded Sedin twins to the Jobing ice. Going into the game I would have expected a loss, but would have been delighted with a point. Unfortunately it wasn't to be and the Canucks rolled the Coyotes and left with a 5-0 shutout and two points. Mike Smith's recent hot form, 8-1-1 over a month and a save % of .946 was blown out of the water by goals from Salo, Kesla, Booth, LaPierre and Burrows. The one possible bright spot for Tippet and the Coyotes was the penalty kill unit. Phoenix stopped the NHL's best PP unit on all 5 chances and 1min 31sec of 5 on 3. Not many positives but an impressive one none the less!

v Stars, After such a tough loss against the Canucks the Coyotes welcomed the Stars to Phoenix. So far the Coyotes had managed to surrender winning positions to the Stars late in the game, this would be an opportunity to right that wrong. The game also saw Langkow return to the coyotes lineup after his own personal tragedy. The Coyotes were brilliant, after surrendering those late leads and two OT losses to Dallas the Coyotes responded with a 3-0 shutout win on home ice. That shutout was Smith's 13th of his career and improves him to 3-0-0 against the Stars in regulation. The Coyotes goals came from Boedker, Whitney and Pyatt.

@ Blackhawks, The Coyotes rolled into Chicago to take on the Blackhawks and played their best road form. Able to play their hard-checking, suffocating style of play the Coyotes raced into the lead and never looked back. With Mike Smith in fine form between the pipes the Coyotes took the lead in the first period through Daymond Langkow's fourth goal of the season. Shane Doan then blasted a slap shot from the right circle that went straight through Crawford, giving the Yotes a 2-0 lead midway through the game. The Coyotes wrapped up the game in the first 5 minutes of the third period, Vrbata continuing his hot streak scoring the Yotes 3rd just after the start of the period and Whitney making it four at the 5min mark. The Blackhawks finally gave their fans something to cheer about when they got their only goal of the game in the last minute, denying Mike Smith a shutout, Patrick Sharp making the final score 4-1 Coyotes.

Coyotes end the month 8-4-1

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Phoenix v Slough Jets 27th November Game Review

The weekends games saw the Phoenix travel down to Basingstoke to take on the Bison before returning to the Dome to play Slough. After the Phoenix much improved performance over Peterborough last sunday in the bank, saturday's game was a chance to carry on the revival, however, full concentration would be needed as the Bison are no easy team to play, especially in their own barn. In the end the Phoenix beat my own expectations, despite going down to the Bison the Phoenix scored 5 un-answered to come back to Altrincham with a 5-1 victory and both points on offer. Setting things up nicely and the Phoenix first shot at a 4 point weekend in a while!

First Period: Games against Slough have always been tough, ever since joining the EPL the Jets have had a good record against the Phoenix. In the Greener brothers they have some of the leagues best agitators, in Dan Davies they have one of the best Brits and in Calder and Pliskauskas they have two of the EPL's best forwards. The first period was entertaining, fast and relatively even but with Slough creating most of the clear cut chances. Only one goal came of the period, and came for Slough. Showing just how tight the margins are in this league, Calder was left alone on the hashmarks for one second and unleashed a laser of a wrist shot into the Phoenix net. 1-0 Slough and probably a fair return for their efforts, the goal coming at 7min 59sec.

Second Period: What followed, quite simply, was the worst period of hockey from the Phoenix I have seen yet! Slough utterly dominated the Phoenix and the Phoenix looked absolutely lost. Slough's onslaught began less than two minutes into the period when Calder got his second of the game at 21min 51sec. Their third and fourth goals came within two minutes of each other, with J Greener scoring on the powerplay at 27min 57sec and Dough Sheppard scoring a short handed goal at 29min 51sec. In fact that passage of play summed the Phoenix up this period. The Phoenix had, up to this point, had a couple of PP opportunities and struggled, again, to get set up in the opposition zone. Slough get a PP and score within 3 seconds! Then, as they are killing a penalty score a short handed goal. Then when Dan Davies got their 5th at 35min 21sec the Phoenix looked dead and buried. Im not sure if anyone did leave at that point but, I would have forgiven them for doing so!

Third Period: If the second period was the worst i'd ever seen at the Dome, the third showed the Phoenix grew a pair and started to fight and claw their way back into the game. After bemoaning the PP earlier above, it would be the Phoenix PP that would haul them back into the game. Tom Duggan scored first, getting another goal and deservedly so for his recent performances. His goal came at 44min 37sec, less than a minute and a half later Jaroslav Spelda capped his comeback game with a goal at 45min 54sec. Phoenix tails were up, the Phoenix faithful were right back in the game and the pressure continued. Slava (Dave) Koulikov score the Phoenix third goal at 49min 00sec to bring the Phoenix within two. But, despite pulling Fone for the extra attacker no further goals were scored and Slough headed back south with a 5-3 victory.

Verdict: A real chance missed for a four point weekend, one of the worst 20mins of play by a Phoenix team, and for over 40mins of the game absolutely nothing to tempt the hundreds of newbies in the Ice Dome. I am delighted the Phoenix showed some fight and got back into the game, certainly made the scoreboard more respectable, but that cant paper over the fact that for the most part, this was a step back for the Phoenix. Ok, a few lucky bounces in that third period comeback, especially for Koulikov and the Phoenix could have tied the game. The most worrying thing for me now, seems to be the trend where the Phoenix will pull off a great road win, only to scupper that by turning in a lackluster performance at home. I would absolutely trade road wins for home wins! That being said, the Phoenix are slowly returning to health, Tony Hand has had a few games now to see how the team plays, and hopefully to make improvements in game plan and tactics and once again, the Phoenix have a mixed weekend and yet, are still in touching distance of the top. I am thankful that this seasons EPL is so close and tough to call!

Attendance: Boosted by quite a few newbies I would guess around the 1,000 mark again!

Phoenix 3 Slough 5 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 3 Slough 5 - Sough Article
Phoenix 3 Slough 5 - CB Sport

Friday, 25 November 2011

Phoenix v Peterborough Phantoms 20th November Game Review

I do apologise with the lateness of another match report, really must give my self a rocket up the proverbial and get them online in a more timely fashion! Anyway, the past weekend saw the Phoenix take on the Peterborough Phantoms in a away/home series. The Phoenix traveled down to Peterborough saturday night and took the lead, before the Phantoms took over. It looks like the Phoenix ran out of steam and the Phantoms ran out 3-1 winners. Another loss for the Phoenix and possibly the team hitting rock bottom?

Sunday night gave them the best chance to right that wrong and get back on track. Sunday's warm up also saw Jaroslav Spelda take to the ice, however he did not ice in the game. Still encouraging signs as it shows the Phoenix injury list is going to get smaller soon! The Phantoms always present a tough nut to crack, mainly because of the most aptly named goalkeeper in hockey, Stephen Wall. On a hot night he can be unbeatable, he gives the Phantoms a chance to win every game they play. A big, mobile, guy he fills the goal and can be a right pain! Sunday night would be a tough test for the Phoenix!

First Period: The Phoenix came out the blocks flying and really took the game to the Phantoms. The lines were, again, being mixed up due to absentee's and, with Tony on the bench it gave him a chance to see how the team plays. Maybe even see some of the frustrations we see in the stands. Anyway the Phoenix were testing Wall in goal and showed some desire and hunger. A much improved performance! The first goal came within the first 5mins with James Archer getting a deserved goal for all his efforts. His goal timed at 4min 40sec. The period continued well for the Phoenix and Slava (Dave) Koulikov netted another goal for the Phoenix at 16min 10sec. Slava is really beginning to up his point production now. The period ended 2-0 to the Phoenix.

Second Period: Could the good form last, or would the Jekyll and Hyde Phoenix return. Thankfully the good form of the first period continued in the second. Juraj Faith has performed very well being moved back into his more natural centre position, note to Sir Tony, why not spread the top line talent with Faith's improved performance in mind! Tom Duggan got a fair fe shifts at centre on the top line, with Faith rotating through lines 2 and 3 in the middle. Worked very well too! The Phoenix scored the next goal of the game when Faith found Cingel at 25min 40sec to make it 3-0 Phoenix. The period continued and the Phoenix continued to pressure the Phantoms, Tom Duggan made it 4-0 Phoenix with another goal to reward his constant good efforts on the ice. His fifth of the season coming at 36min 55sec.

Third Period: With the game at 4-0 the Phoenix eased off and looked to ride out the game and get the two points. The Phantoms threatened but never really tested Fone in goal. A few chances came the way of the Phoenix but Wall stood up to them and kept the Phoenix at bay. Only one goal came in the period and, sadly, it was to break a prospective shutout for Fone. Luke Ferrara was found in the hash marks and blasted the puck high into Fone's top left corner with around 4mins to go in the game.

Verdict: Great to get a win, great to see Spelda out on warm up but, even more important, a great performance from the Phoenix. The Phantoms have often proved to be a difficult opposition for the Phoenix and following on from the loss saturday night, heads could have been down. I must echo what, Nigel said on the podcast during the intervals, maybe the loss in Peterborough was rock bottom for the Phoenix. Maybe it forced them to think, this is not good enough, and forced them to re-focus and up their game. What ever happened, it worked! With that performance, and some bodies coming back from the injury table, thinks are looking a bit brighter for the Phoenix!

Attendance: A little lower than usual, maybe recent results had taken their toll, so i'll guess at around 1,000 in the Ice Dome.

Phoenix 4 Peterborough 1 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 4 Peterborough 1 - CB Sport

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Phoenix v Telford Tigers 12th November Game Review

In a week of un-usualness the next home game for the Phoenix saw the visit of the Telford Tigers to the Ice Dome. After the fallout from the Sheffield game thursday night, the main hope for the Phoenix faithful would be, a return to some form. While Telford had been struggling they, along with Sheffield, can be a difficult team to play. In fact earlier this season the Tigers had scored a win over the Phoenix in Shropshire after penalty shots.

Going into the game the Phoenix injury list had not gotten any shorter, with Spelda out, Stephen Wallace joined him on the sidelines finally scumming to a wrist injury which means he could be out of the lineup for up to 6 weeks! It never rains, it pours!

First Period: It was a very sombre mood at the Ice Dome saturday night, most Phoenix fan's still in shock from thursday nights fallout. For me, the important thing to come out of tonight's game would be the performance. The Phoenix had to show, and against a tough opponent like Telford, that they could pick themselves up and fight for a game. Thing's did not begin well, Stephen Wallace was ruled out of the game and for up to 6 weeks with a fractured wrist. Bloody great news that!! Anyway, the Phoenix hungry for the ice, and exploded in the first period. They looked fresh, quick and with the lines shuffled, due to injruy, quite creative! Those first 20 minutes saw 6 goals and the Phoenix race to a 4-2 lead. I'll just list the goals instead:

Phoenix, Cingel 4min 49sec
Phoenix, Harabin 6min 06sec
Phoenix, Archer 9min 08sec
Telford, Janak 13min 05sec
Telford, Soar 17min 08sec
Phoenix, Wood 19min 02sec

Highlight of the period was Ben Wood's goal at the 19min mark, from the point he took a wrist shot that went through at least 3 bodies and under Greg Blais in net. Just show's the value of putting a puck on the net to see what happens!

Second Period: The Phoenix blistering performance continued in the second and the Phoenix owned the twenty minutes that followed. The Period saw the Phoenix extend their lead to 8-2 and saw some goal light reward for two hard working, often unsung, Phoenix players. The first was Ciaran Long, who had worked hard all year with little reward finally getting a goal on home ice. Tom Duggan also picked up a goal, this just rewards for being the Phoenix MOM for a good few weeks now! Plus an honourable mention must go to Martin Cingel for completing a hattrick.

Phoenix, Long 23min 22sec
Phoenix, Cingel made by Koulikov 26min 34sec
Phoenix, Duggan 4 on 4 33min 55sec
Phoenix, Cingel hattrick 35min 48sec

Third Period: In true Tony Hand fasion the Phoenix eased up in the third period and, coupled with an injury, let the Tigers back into the game. With the lines rotating already, things were not helped when Tony Hand took a shot to the ankle which forced him out of the game. Up until this point, Faith/Cingel had been rotating onto lines with the younger Brits to spread the talent. After Tony's exit the lines were all over the place! Much of our creativity comes through him, so the last few minutes were a struggle! The Phoenix scored one more to make it 9 before Telford hit three un-answered goals in 8 minutes to make the score 9-5.

Phoenix, Harabin 43min 16sec
Telford, Henry 46min 23sec
Telford, Bruce 52min 46sec
Telford, Janak 54min 55sec

Verdict: For 50 minutes we got what we wanted, a performance from the Phoenix. I thought Blais in Telford's goal will admit he has had better games and had Declan Ryan been in goal from the start the scores may have been different! The injury to Wallce forced Tony to rotate the top line, and it was working nicely. It was good to see the likes of Long/Duggan playing with Faith. Losing Tony was a blow, and we did struggle a little after he left the ice. I can only hope he is not out for long.

I think most of the Phoenix faithful are getting fed up of our injuries. I think the Phoenix have only played half a game with a full roster! That first War of the Roses against Sheffield until Gomeniuk knee'd Ciaran Long. Since then we have had Long out, Archer, Ward, Harabin, Spelda, Wallace and Tony Hand out of action. In all my time of supporting hockey I've never know a roster so decimated by injury and a team going so deep into a season without ever icing a full roster!

Attendance: Saturday night's are not our usual home nights, and maybe the Sheffield performance deterred a few. Having said that, the crowd was swelled by a couple of hundred Scouts and a Field hockey team, so i'll guess around another 1-1,100 in the Ice Dome.

Phoenix 9 Telford 5 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 9 Telford 5 - Tigers Article
Phoenix 9 Telford 5 - CB Sport

With Spelda out, Wallace out and now Tony Hand missing from the lineup it's no surprise sunday's long trip down to Guildford was a disappointing one for the Phoenix!

Guildford 9 Phoenix 4 - Phoenix Article
Guildford 9 Phoenix 4 - Flames Article
Guildford 9 Phoenix 4 - CB Sport

Friday, 18 November 2011

Phoenix v Sheffield Steeldogs 10th November Game Review

A rare midweek game for the Phoenix saw the visit of the Sheffield Steeldogs for another instalment of the cross Pennine battle. Andre Payette brought his Sheffield team to the Ice Dome riding high in the EPL table. He has forged a very tough team to beat, they work hard and grind out games, with their star player Janis Ozonlins getting much of the limelight. Of course any visit of the Steeldog's allows the Altrincham faithful to reacquaint themselves with messers Morgan/Geomeniuk/Wood and Payette! Always a pleasure!

Anyway Sheffield came into the game higher in the table and looking good to end their duck against the Phoenix in the EPL.

First Period: Off we go then, from the outset Sheffield brought their physicality and hard work to the ice, and the Phoenix struggled. While each team created chances the Phoenix were never able to set up in the Sheffield zone and put continued pressure on Ben Bowns in goal. Sheffield, on the other hand, were relying on their top line of Wood/Payette/Ozonlins to produce, as their most creative play came through them. As the period progressed and the Phoenix struggled the Steeldogs scored two quick goals to really take the initiative. The first came after 3 and a half minutes with Greg Wood returning to haunt the Phoenix. Less than a minute later, that man Ozonlins, popped up to extend their lead. Begrudgingly Sheffield deserved the lead so far.

Second Period: This period carried on where the first left off, with Sheffield continuing to frustrate the Phoenix, they had a plan and it was working. The Phoenix were able to haul themselves back into the game by scoring on a powerplay. I think the sun's must have aligned or something! Ladislav Harabin stepping up and scoring after 34min 27sec. A fight back on the cards? Sadly not, the mini-Payette Greg Wood struck again to restore Sheffield's two goal lead scoring at 35min 28sec. Sadly the hockey took a back seat in this period to the disgusting 'hit' by Payette on Luke Boothroyd. Im not going to rant on here, I said my piece below, on our forum and twitter and that's the last of it!

Third Period: With the scores at 3-1 and just twenty minutes left, I honestly didn't think the Phoenix had enough time to bring it back and, to be honest, I was still fuming after the events in the second. The period passed with the Phoenix tiring and the Steeldog's antics continuing. Only one goal came in the period, Ozonlins again scoring after 54min 25sec. As time ticket by it was clear Sheffield would finally get their win over the Phoenix at the 23rd time of asking.

Verdict: This was a poor performance from the Phoenix, we were outworked and looked tired and well off the pace. That's not to say Sheffield didn't play well, this defeat to Sheffield had been coming. Sheffield looked hungry and got their win....however! I can only say what I said on twitter after the game, Sheffield may have finally got their win against the Phoenix, but they deserve no praise/respect with the way they went about getting it. I have never seen a team play so dirty and dangerous in my time watching hockey. The clothes-line by Payette on Luke Boothroyd in the second period was disgusting and down right dangerous. He could seriously have inflicted major damage and it is by a sheer miracle that Luke's head was still screwed on. Greg Wood is fast becoming a mini Payette, which is a big shame, given he is a good player! That aside, the poor performance from the Phoenix and the lengthy injury list taking it's told, it's no surprise Sheffield managed, finally, to beat the Phoenix.

Attendance: Midweek games are always a tough sell, still, I would say around 1,000 fans came out for the game.

Phoenix 1 Sheffield 4 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 1 Sheffield 4 - Steeldogs Article
Phoenix 1 Sheffield 4 - CB Sport

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Desert Dogs-a-Howlin - October

The 2011/12 NHL season is finally a go-go! Except no one in the UK can see it on their telly boxes yet! Im sure most of you will roughly know the current wrangling over the NHL's European TV rights deal, so I wont go into it. I'll only say, I do not want to watch the NHL on my computer, I want to watch it on my TV. So, the NHL and ESPN America have until the end of the month to get the NHL on our screens or I shall join the growing list of people who have binned their subscription!

*update* since writing that opening sentance and posting this, Premier Sports have signed a deal to screen live and as-live NHL games in the UK. So, ESPN America has been cancelled and 'hello premier sports' *update*

@ SJ Sharks,The Coyotes opened their season with a trip across to sunny central California to meet the Sharks by the bay, not the easiest of starts, but the Coyotes had one 5 of their previous opening day games. This time would be different, the offseason has not been kind to the Coyotes and they went into the game without their goalkeeping star Bryzgalov. In his place Mike Smith signed from the Tampa Bay Lightning, unfortunately for him, and the Yotes, they had the worst of starts. The Sharks rolled over the Coyotes 6-2, with Smith coming in for a peppering facing 52 shots! Combine that with 3 PP goals for the Sharks you can kinda guess this was a result the Coyotes will be keen to leave behind!

@ Stars, The Coyotes continued their season openers with another road game, this time in the big state, Texas. Where everything is done bigger and better....apparently! The Coyotes headed for Dallas to face the Stars, a team who are struggling as much as the Coyotes are. Perhaps because of this the game was not a barn burner, just 6,306 fans attended the game and witnessed a tight game. The Coyotes were just 27seconds shy of recording their opening win before Eriksson netted to send the game into OT and Penalties. The Coyotes would be disappointed once again as the Stars won the shoot-out and the extra point. At least, for the Phoenix, that visit to Dallas yielded a point and got them off the mark.

@ Nashville, So next stop for the Coyotes road trip was the season opener in the Bridgestone Arena Tennesse. A tough game with a sell out crowd hyped up by an emotional pre-game video tribute to Lokomotiv Yaroslavl and to former Pred Wade Belak. The Predators may well have been too wrapped up in the video's as the Coyotes came out and hammered them in the first period. Launching to a 3-0 lead the Coyotes managed to silence the sell out crowd, a big achievement in itself! With LeBarbera in goal the Coyotes were able to keep out the Predators until over the halfway point, despite the s/o going the Coyotes shut down the Pred's and held on for a 5-2 victory. A good win for the Yotes against a talented Predator team, but for me, the stand out stat from the game is, 13 Coyotes players picking up points. The Coyotes do not have too many standout names, but with team production like that, they don't need to! I only hope the Yotes can keep up this kind of point production!

v Winnipeg, The father franchise of the Coyotes jetted into town to take on their transplanted offspring. There had been an exciting build up to this game, would the Jet's show that the NHL made a mistake re-locating them to Arizona? Or would the Yotes show their is life in the desert and life in the Yotes despite all the off ice troubles. A full arena greeted both teams, with a sizeable contingent of Jet's fans, the night would be noisy! Any hope the Jet's fans had of upsetting the Coyotes home opener were dispelled just 34sec into the contest. The Coyotes made the perfect start in silencing the Jet's fans and pumping their own up! Phoenix would control the game and run out 4-1 winners, with second year Oliver Ekman-Larsson having a great night with two goals. The other highlight was a great performance from Mike Smith, posting a 0.948 save percentage! On a night where a loss could have been spun so many ways, the Yotes came up big and put on an impressive performance. Hopefully some newbies in the sellout crowd were convinced to give the Desert Dog's another go!

v Chicago, Next up for the Yotes saw the Blackhawks come to town, this would be another tough test for the Coyotes as the Blackhawks bring a number of skilled players to the fight. The game began and both teams traded goals up until the end of the second period when the Blackhawks held a 3-2 lead. Going into the third the Coyotes performance on the PP sealed their fate in this game. Given two powerplay opportunities not only did they not score, they gave up a short handed goal. Those type of goals really get to me, so it is disappointing to see the Yotes fall victim. Being a Manchester Phoenix fan I know all about poor powerplay performances too! After the high of beating the Jet's this loss is so dissapointing, a good performance against a team like Chicago would have done the Coyotes confidence no end of good!

v Los Angeles, The Coyotes home stand ended with the visit of the LA King's, the Kings seem to be perennial under achievers, especially coming from the success hungry state of California! The Coyotes went into this game 1-1 during this home series and a good performance on home ice would be needed. Sadly that didn't come, and the Yotes were shut-out on home ice by a score of 2-0! For some reason, waking up to this score, im really disappointed with it, I think it's because, against the Blackhawks I didn't see the Yotes getting anything, but against the King's I felt good in hoping for a Yotes win. Reading the recap it sounds like it was a poor performance, not necessarily from Smith in goal, but the team in front. Iv'e got the game recorded so will have to make my mind up then. When the team are keen to improve crowds at the home games are important, and the Yotes are now 1 and 2 at home. That form has to improve, im sure it will, we are still in the early stages of the season!

@ Anaheim, The Yotes travelled to California for their first visit to Anaheim, a game against the Ducks offered the chance for Phoenix to forget about the home shutout versus the Kings. If anything, that game forced the Coyotes into a reaction. It looks like the Coyotes new attitude worked wonders as they forced Anaheim into 15 turnovers and a further 7 takeaways. With that sort of offence its clear to see how the Yotes managed to harry the Ducks into mistakes. The Ducks also pulled Hiller for Dan Ellis, another sign the Coyotes were doing something right! The biggest star of the night was Martin Hanzal, the defensive forward stepped up with a 4 point game with two goals and two assists. It's good to see the Coyotes spread the scoring too, with 4 scorers, including first goals for Yandle and Gordon.

v Dallas, The Stars came back to the Desert for the teams second meeting in a month, the Coyotes would try to get the win that they let slip in Dallas. With the last 6 meetings between them being decided by a goal it should come as no surprise this was another tight game. It was a tough game but the Yotes worked hard and a highlight of which was Shane Doan getting number 300! A fantastic milestone for any player in hockey, let alone the NHL! That goal also saw the Coyotes powerplay problems end, that marker being the first PP goal in 14 attempts! Being a Manchester Phoenix fan, I can understand a frustrating poerplay unit! Going into the last 90sec of the game, just like in Dallas, the Coyotes gave up the lead and the game ended 2-2. No further goals came in overtime and the extra point would be decided by everyone's favourite element of the game.....penalty shootouts! In the end it sounded like neither team wanted to score, 8 rounds.....thats right! It took 8 rounds of penalty shots before the Stars claimed the extra point! Im dissapointed with the loss, but at least the Yotes took a point from the game!

v Devils, After the heartache of another late slip against the Star's fresh in their minds the Coyotes needed to come up big against the Devils! Without Martin Brodeur the Devils luck in the desert was not on their side, without a win in Phoenix since 2003 and an all time record of 3-7-0 the omen's were good for the Yotes. They also got the first goal of the game giving them the early momentum, that goal coming from debutant Patrick O'Sullivan. Despite ending the first period 1-1 the Coyotes were well on top with 19 shots alone in the first session. With the scores tied the Coyotes went on to win period's 2 and 3 by a score of 2-1, giving the Yotes a 5-3 victory against a good New Jersey team. Ray Whitney got deserved recognition after the game thanks to a 3 point game. Despite Whitney entering the twilight of his career at the age of 39, he is having a fantastic scoring start to this season. Whitney and Doan currently lead the roster stats with 10 points each through the first 9 games of the season.

v Kings, After getting back to winning ways against the Devils the Coyotes entertained the Anaheim Ducks in the Jobing,com arena. The Coyotes penalty kill unti played a large part in this game, and helped the Yotes to a 3-2 overtime victory. The Coyotes penalty kill unit has now killed off 34 of the last 37 enemy powerplays, now running at 91.8%! Other big pluses for the Yotes was a big performance from Radim Vrbata who, re-united with Whitney and Hanzal, finished the game with two goals and one assist! Quite often over here in the EPL great goaltending gives you chances to win games. Just look at Stephen Wall for Peterborough and Ben Bown's for Sheffield. Both keepers who will shutout an opposition and win games if given the chance. Mike Smith, who has been much maligned since moving to the desert, put up great numbers and gave the Yotes a chance to win! His save % for the game coming out at 94.9%!

Coyotes ended the month 4-3-2

So that's it, the first Desert Dogs-a-Howlin blog post for The Angry Budgie. Let me know what you think, any changes I should make, anything I should/shouldn't talk about etc...! November's edition is already in the works!