The last game of the festive holiday period was a late night face-off in Telford against the Tigers. So far the Phoenix have a perfect record against the Tigers, and there was no real reason why this should not continue monday night. However of that perfect record the Tigers did manage to push the Phoenix all the way to a penalty shootout, so they are an opposition not to be taken lightly! I would even say that the games are, generally, alot tighter than some of the scorelines suggest. For this game the Phoenix would be back to full strength with Sharp o the ice and Harabin returning after his one match suspension. A good crowd filled the Telford Ice Rink and off we went!
First Period: Shock, I think is the one word to sum up the first 20mins if you were a Phoenix fan! Putting in easily the worst period performance I have seen from the Phoenix this season, the Tigers leapt to a deserved 3-0 lead. Despite the Phoenix starting well, the Tigers early pressure began to find holes in the defense, and the Tigers creating numerous odd man rushes, and shot's through traffic. Early on the Phoenix found Martin Clarkson in fine form. So the first goal came after 11min 58sec and it was Scott McKenzie who ignited the home fans. This guy has an annoying knack of scoring against the Phoenix! The lead was doubled at 16min 38sec through Luke Brittle. Most Phoenix fan's looking a little nervous now, but comforted that there was still much hockey to be played. That belief was tested further when Josh Bruce scored the Tigers 3rd at 18min 22sec. As the buzzer went there were not many Phoenix fan's clapping their team off the ice, most (myself included) sat there in shock. I must admit at this point, I did not see us getting anything from this game!
Second Period: Things got worse in the second period as the Tigers took just 2mins to score again, Tim Burrows scoring at 22min 18sec to make it 4-0 Telford. Still, don't panic, still over half the game to go! As ever in these occasions, Tony Hand step's up and really earns his wage. It would fall to Tony to get the Phoenix scoring machine moving. Mr Hand stepping up to score a superb skillful goal at 29min 37sec to get the Phoenix on the board. Before the period was out the Phoenix would close the gap to two, when Marcus Kristoffersson scored his first of the night at 37min 39sec. This time as the team skated off, there was more belief and enthusiasm up in the away section, a revival was sensed!
Third Period: Loopy, is the word I would use to describe the last 20minutes! After the belief had been built towards the end of the second, it was quickly crushed! Telford scoring their 5th goal just 54sec into the period. Marek Hornak scoring his first of the night and setting off ecstatic scenes on and off the ice. So 3 goals to make up with most of the period left? A tall order even for the Phoenix! A 90sec brace from Kristoffersson would see the Phoenix fans on their feet and dreaming of the impossible. Kristoffersson's goals coming at 45min 31sec and 47min 16sec to bring (also his hattrick goal) the Phoenix to within one, scores at 5-4. Telford would once again extend their lead to 3 goals, and leave Phoenix fans wondering, could the Phoenix get close again? A real rollercoaster this game! Telford's 6th goal came at 47min 49sec when Scott Mckenzie got his second. The 7th goal coming just 40odd sec later, when Marek Hornak got his second at 48min 31sec. So scores now 7-4, 12 minutes to go, not good for the heart of a Phoenix fan! Thankfully the Phoenix got a goal soon after, just 13seconds in fact, this time Curtis Huppe stepping up to score at 48min 44sec. What followed was truly incredible, the real Phoenix decided to play and utterly own the last 10 minutes of the game. Adam Summerfield came on to replace Fone, no reflection on Fone as he had been hung out to dry by the Phoenix defense badly in this game, but putting Adam on, really helped focus the team. a 3 minute period in the latter stages broke Telford hearts and capped an epic comeback. Kristofferson scored his 4th and the Phoenix 6th at 52min 03sec and celebrated in major style, it showed how much it meant! So within two now, the Phoenix game tieing goal came at 53min 48sec when Gomeniuk weaved his way through the Telford zone to slide the puck under Clarkson. The away fans would explode in disbelief when the Phoenix go ahead goal followed less than 2min later. James Archer the hero scoring at 55min 02sec, im pretty sure this was his goal he batted into the goal from mid air! This totally killed the Tigers, the belief had gone and their tired legs caught up, apart from one breakout opportunity the game was done.
Verdict: Relief, roller coaster, epic, despair...just some of the words i'd use to describe that game! I will admit and hold my hands up I didn't think the Phoenix could, or deserved to win this game. They played poorly for the majority of the game. Against the Tigers you have to be at your best as they will come at you hard and fast from the first puck drop! Therein lies their problem for me, the go so fast so soon that they have nothing left at the business end of the game. The last period, in particular the last 10minutes, the Phoenix found their gears, and with the Tigers tiring turned the game in its head! The Tigers deserved to win that game, but hockey is a 60minute game! The final whistle doesn't sound after 20 or 40minutes, it happens at 60! Credit to Tony and the Phoenix for mounting the comeback as it could have been easier to give up and not bother! But this type of result could be massive come the end of the season, and also shows the difference in version 10/11 Phoenix over version 09/10 Phoenix! Last seasons squad would not have come back in this game!
In the end the result was harsh on Telford, and difficult for me as I have a soft spot for them! There was disbelief in the rink come the final buzzer too! Phoenix fan's, that their team had just pulled off a comeback of epic proportions, and Telford fans, that their team had just run out of steam and lost a game they lead 4-0 and 7-4 in! Either way they can take alot from this performance, I will predict now that Telford will be in the play-offs, and I for one hope the Phoenix do not draw them!
Attendance: Not as big as the Phoenix first visit to Telford, sadly the late face-off time of 8pm put off many a Phoenix fan making the trip! Even so I would guess at maybe 550 fans in the building, 120 of them being Phoenix fans.
Shropshire Star Highlights:
Telford 7 Phoenix 8 - CB Sport
Tony Hand stating the obvious! :) - CB Sport
Telford 7 Phoenix 8 - Telford Tigers
Marek Hornak retires - Telford Tigers