This game was an usual mid-week faceoff for the Phoenix, the thursday night game being the second leg EPL Cup semi-final against the Basingstoke Bison. The first leg down in Basingstoke went well for the Phoenix, Sir Tony of Hand scoring the game winner with minutes to spare in the third period. The score from the first leg a useful 3-2 lead for the Phoenix. A nice position to be in, going into the second leg in Altrincham you would think?
First Period: 188seconds, that's all it took for the Bison to pull level in the tie. Their first goal coming after some worryingly shoddy defending from the Phoenix. Sadly this would not be the only time the Phoenix D was called into question! Just under two minutes later the Bison took the lead, a shocked Ice Dome sat in silence not quite understanding what had happened to the Phoenix. A little brightness came through the clouds at 11min 01sec when Huppe scored to tie the aggregate scores. Even though the Phoenix had scored, the defence was still poor, I couldn't criticise the D men alone, this was a team defensive fail! The Bison scored again after 13min 28sec and as the Phoenix faithful were scratching their heads, up stepped Stephen Wallace to make it 2-3 Bison. Scoring after 14min 51sec. The Bison would have the last laugh though in the period, scoring just 23sec from the final hooter to make it 4-2 Bison and 6-5 overall. Sadly the game looked beyond the Phoenix at this point, I remember thinking that period rivalled the worst I had ever seen at the Phoenix. Our team looked slow, out of ideas and most worryingly, we looked nervous in our own zone.
Second Period: It would be ok though, Tony would read the riot act in the dressing room and things would be ok right? Wrong! The Bison scored the first goal of the second period after 24min 29sec. Despite the poor play the Phoenix, somehow, stayed in the tie. Joe Miller scored for the Phoenix after 25min 16sec. Then, just as quickly as the Phoenix got back into the game, they gave away another goal. At 26min 57sec Basingstoke scored again. My exact tweet was: 'Goal Bison, scored: 67, timed: 26:57. Lost for words!!' End of second 6-3 Bison and 8-6 Bison overall. The buzzer went and the silence was deafening! I must give credit to the Bison, they were playing a very solid road game, so when you add that to a terrible Phoenix performance so far, you can imagine the mood in the Phoenix stands!
Third Period: Nevermind still 20mins of hockey left to play! It was the Phoenix who scored first in the third period, Sir Tony of Hand scoring on the powerplay bringing the Phoenix within a goal. In fact that was the only goal in the third period, not enough for the Phoenix and the Bison won the tie overall on a score of 8-7.
Attendance: Not a bad crowd in the Ice Dome, given it was mid-week and a non season ticket game, I would have guessed around 700 in the Ice Dome.
Verdict: As mentioned previously, one of if not the worst game put in by a Phoenix team that I have ever seen! Take nothing away from the Bison, they played very well, but quite simply the Phoenix rolled over and handed the game to the Bison. I do remember thinking, as bad as the Phoenix are/were, they were only a goal or two from getting back into the game. I think I mentioned it on the podcast during an interval, I could easily see the Phoenix scoring the goal or two, but I could easily see them conceding more! In the end the Bison are deserved finalists, and the Phoenix do now, at least, not have the worry of shoe horning two extra games, and cup final games at that, into a busy title run in. Whereas the Bison now do, and the Jets/Fames may have to! No, the most worrying thing for me was the performance, surely this was not the same title chasing Phoenix team I had been watching all season? But that's my opinion, credit to the guys though, they are professional sportsmen, and the look on their faces as they skated round the ice at the end said it all, they were hurting.....big time!
Phoenix TV - 21st Feb
Phoenix 4 Basingstoke 6 - MEN Article
Phoenix 4 Basingstoke 6 - CB Sport Article