The Angry Budgie Live

Thursday, 31 March 2011

EPL PLayoff Quarter Finals

So the league is done, and this Phoenix fan cant stop grinning!

With that out the way there is the small matter of the EPL playoff's and a trip to Coventry in the balance! The Phoenix made it last year and lost to eventual champions Slough, this year the Phoenix will be taking 550+ fans to the SkyDome and will fill the horseshoe end. Those in attendance will be hoping the Phoenix go one better and make this years final! So for this blog I wanted to have a look at the different match ups and have a chin wag about team's chances. So sit back, have a cuppa and here we go.....

Guildford Flames v Swindon Wildcats
Flames lead the series 5-1
With the roster available to Flames player coach Paul Dixon, and the recent hot streak for the Flames, many fans would have the side from the Spectrum as firm favorites. They are probably correct but, lest we forget the Wildcats are the team that embarrassed MK after their title win last season. The Cats have also upset the Flames in the Spectrum before, in Douglass they have a game winning goalie (when he is in the mood!). The Flames are odds on favorites and, apart from one loss, have the number of the Cats all season. However as many a hockey fan will tell you, playoff hockey is a totally different animal to league hockey. As Swinon showed last year! Its 6 periods of hockey to get to the Coventry weekend and the key for Swinon is to take a lead into the Spectrum. Any less and I can see the Flames winning easily. The tie has potential for an upset but, with the extra quality in the Flames roster they should do the business! Just spark Nathan Rempel and observe the results!

Prediction: Flames to go through.

Slough Jets v Peterborough Phantoms
Jets lead the series 4-1-1 One game tied and one win on penalty shots.
Another tricky tie, and one the Jets should win, but are not guaranteed to! The Phantoms are a very difficult team to beat, just ask any Phoenix fan! In Stephen Wall they have one of the best goalies in the league. The Phantoms have had success against the Jets this season, but that was before the Jets brought in Adam Calder. The point production from the Canadian has been scary since he arrived at the hangar! The Jets can blow cold and the Phantoms will have to be at their best and capitalise on any slip ups made, key for me, the Phantoms must win their home leg. They have to be able to take a lead into the 2nd, if they do they can make life hard for the Jets. Much like the Flames/Wildcats series their is potential for an upset, but over 6 periods, with the devastating Calder on form, I think it'll be the Jets making the trip to Coventry!

Prediction: Jets to go through.

Basingstoke Bison v MK Lightning
Series tied 3-3 with two games going to OT or penalty shots!
Ooooooo, im taking this one as the pick of the quarter finals! Two evenly matched teams that have been at each others throats all season, hardly much to split the sides too. This game really could go either way, both teams have players who can win a game. Kubenko and Lauko for the Bison and Kalgoum and Emersic for MK. Its really hard to pick a winner in this tie as both teams have had a bit of an iffy run in to the playoff post season. I really can see this tie going for 6 periods, overtime and even penalty shots. Possibly the decider will be in the goaltending, I think Hollyhead is slightly the better keeper (from games I have seen in Manchester) but he can loose his head easily and become a bit of a liability. This is where Skinns reliability could prove invaluable! Another factor in who takes it could be, who stays out of the penalty box. Both teams have players who can blast them from the blue line or dance their way through. Crikey its tough to pick a winner, I think im going to have to plump for the Bison. On the basis their higher league placing gives them home advantage for the second leg, they will have the home support for any potential OT or penalty shot situation. The key for MK will be taking a decent lead into Basingstoke, if they don't the Bison can overhaul them.

Prediction: The Bison to go through.....only just though!

Manchester Phoenix v Sheffield Steeldogs
Phoenix lead the series 6-0
On paper, an easy series win for the Phoenix should be on the cards, however just ask MK from last year, playing the 8th ranked team is no passport to Coventry! Plus, since Payette took over, the Steeldogs have become a much more difficult team to beat. Sheffield should be at full strength (though there are rumors that Payette may be banned for the first leg), the Phoenix will be without Tony Hand. Thankfully the Phoenix showed they can cope without Mr Hand by securing a comfortable win against the Wildcats on the final day of the season with the EPL title riding on it. The key for Sheffield will be to play physical, and play rough. In a hockey game there is no match and the Phoenix would win easily, however when Sheffield bring their (sometimes very illegal) physicality to a game it makes things interesting. Plus in Ozonlins they have the find of the season, the little guy is a dynamo and supremely talented. Payette has, possibly, scored the coup of the summer in re-signing him and keeping him from the noisy neighbors next door. And in Ben Bowns they have a hot prospect and a goalie who is destined to play at higher levels than the EPL someday soon! The Phoenix have enough offence and talent to win the tie, but key will be to come out of Sheffield with healthy bodies. I'll take a one goal revers, as back on home ice in Alty I think the Phoenix can overhaul the Steeldogs. Ideally i'd love the guys to bring a lead back across the pennines, but I can see the possibility of an upset from that game. The Phoenix need to make sure they don't suffer the same fate as MK last season, and come to the game with their best heads on. There will no doubt be a massive Phoenix following in Ice Sheffield, so two great atmospheres are to be expected!

Prediction: Phoenix to go through.

Next week will see the game review from the 2nd leg between the Phoenix and Sheffield from Altrincham, and a Coventry weekend preview!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The Championship Weekend

The final weekend of the season has now passed, all tat remains is the small matter of a playoff final in Coventry!

Saturday night saw more than 200 Phoenix fans make the 3 hour drive to Peterborough, a team the Phoenix have a 100% record against going into the game. Just needing one point a win or OT loss would see the Phoenix lift the silverware on Peterborough Ice. Sadly the Phantoms were in no mood to make it easy, and a great performance from them, coupled with some stage fright from the Phoenix saw the Phantoms skate out with a deserved 6-2 victory. With the Flames winning at home to the Tigers everything came down to the last game of the season. The Phoenix at home to Swindon and the Flames away in Telford. It would be tough, but a big big crowd and rocking Ice Dome greeted the Phoenix as they took to the ice to make history.

First Period: A rocking opening period saw a tension filled Ice Dome treated to some good hockey. The Phoenix didn't play with any visible nervousness, a bit cautious maybe but they still outplayed Swindon. The fans in the stands were filled with tension, knowing what was riding on the game. An early powerplay opportunity for the Phoenix came and the Phoenix scored. The Ice Dome exploded with joy and a sense of relief that the Phoenix had got going. After 5min 22sec the Phoenix cycled the puck round to Gomeniuk on the blue line who let rip a rocket to the top corner! One to look out for on the highlight reel! What happened next, only ref Emerson will know! After an incident on the far boards both Tony Hand and a Swindon player came away with minor injuries, Emerson headed over to the penalty box and after a chat with the announcer game Tony a 5 plus game plus match for accidental high sticks. What an utterly ridiculous penalty, made worse as Emerson had missed the blatant elbow that left Tony with a nice shiner! So the Phoenix were 2-1, facing a 5 minute penalty and the remaining 50mins without their playmaker and coach. Needles to say anxiety levels went through the roof for the fans! Swindon scored during the 5min powerplay at 15min 01sec through number 81, who managed to just about squeeze the puck under Steve Fone. The Phoenix did not let the adversity get the better of them and managed to close out the period 2-1 ahead.

Second Period: This period was all about hard work, the Phoenix had to adapt and find a way to play without Tony. The big thing for me was to have someone to run the bench and call the lines. Without Tony the Phoenix were in danger of running around like headless chickens and letting the awful officiating ruin the game. Although no goals were scored in the period the Phoenix coped well and did not allow Swindon much time in the Phoenix zone. The buzzer went with the scores still at 2-1 Phoenix, just 20minutes away from a maiden league title.

Third Period: Looking composed the Phoenix began the third period well, just 2min 27sec into the re-start the Phoenix made it 3-1 on the powerplay when Stephen Wallace had the puck, deaked Douglass in goal, sat him on his arse and scored. A piece of beauty that goal! The Phoenix made it 4-1 when James Archer scored after 46min 06sec, at this point the Ice Dome began to believe. But, Swindon would make sure the Phoenix faithful could not open the party poppers just yet when they scored their second of the night at 49min 03sec through Knight. After that the Phoenix took hold of the game and began to run the clock down into the last 5 minutes and the Phoenix faithful took to their feet and began to raise the roof. Into the last minute Swindon pulled their goalie and the puck broke down the far boards to Huppe who slotted home the empty netter with 10sec to go. Delight in the stands and on the Phoenix bench turned to delirium when the final hooter went, confirming the Phoenix as EPL champions 2010/11!!

Following pic with thanks to @jdgmedia:
Verdict: Well the Phoenix shook off their nerves from Peterborough and turned in a classy performance against a talented Wildcats team. Missing Tony Hand for 50minutes of the game was a tough test, but one the guys passed with flying colours. An awesome test for an awesome team, and one worthy of title status!

Attendance: While not a sell out the Ice Dome was packed and as a result the atmosphere was something special! I would say at least 1,600 in the Ice Dome probably more!

For all those Phoenix fans who want to re-live the moment:

Phoenix TV:

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Phoenix v Slough Jets 17th March Game Review

Thursday night saw the Phoenix take on the Slough Jets at the Altrincham Ice Dome, this would be a very tough game, but the rewards would be great. A win, and just one point is needed to lift the EPL title, a loss would be disappointing but things would still be in the Phoenix hands! So off we all went to Altrincham to watch the penultimate home league game of the season!

First Period: Not sure if the situation was getting the better of the Phoenix in the first period, but we looked nervous, passes were not going to stick's and we just could not clear our own zone. Pasha guilty of sending two clearances up centre ice, one of which lead to a Slough goal. Thankfully the Jets hadn't hit top gear and didn't take full advantage of the Phoenix errors! Having said all that it was the Phoenix who scored first! Go figure! After 5min 05sec on the powerplay Marcus and Curtis combined with quick passing to cross the puck to the far post for a rushing Ben Morgan to bury the puck home! In a theme of the period it took the Jets less than a minute to equalize. Scoring at 6min 04sec through Pliskauskas. After a passage of play which saw the Phoenix struggle Tony Hand took the puck and put Rockman on his bum to re-take the lead, at 17min 42sec. Again, less than a minute later the Jets equalized through Ryan Watt at 17min 04sec.

Second Period: The Phoenix came out and looked a more settled outfit in the middle session! 5 minutes into the period Ben Morgan stepped up and shot through Rockman's legs from the blue line, a wonderful goal, timed 25min 46sec. The Phoenix continued to dominate the play in the second period, but Slough had their chances, even hitting the post on one occasion. The Jets would tie the game again at 37min 08sec when Thompson scored a short handed goal. These really annoy me, you should not concede shorthanded goals. It really was a collection of errors, from loosing possesion to a bad timed line change which left Slough up the ice 2 on 1. After the goal the Phoenix moved the puck into the offensive zone and began to work the powerplay, and just as Slough went back to full strength Curtis Huppe picked up his own rebound to score. Making it 4-3 at 38min 17sec.

Third Period: At 4-3 the Phoenix looked on course to take two points, however I have no idea what happened! The Phoenix seemed to sit back content to sit on the lead. Which is never a good thing, and something the Phoenix have never been able to do! At 48min 40sec the Jets started their comeback and tied the game though Adam Calder, perhaps Fone should have done better with that as the puck just went through him! The Jets then took the lead through Pliskauskas at 53min 48sec and the Phoenix began to panic. After having the moment in the second, then switching off in the third they couldnt get going, so it was no surprise that in the last 1min 30sec they pulled Fone for another attacker only to concede an empty net goal to Connelly at 59min 57sec. Final score 6-4 Jets.

Verdict: In truth, a poor overall game from the Phoenix! You cannot compete for 20 of the 60mins and expect to get anything! Especially against the Jets with the offensive talent they have in Calder and Pliskauskas! I think the main thing that worried me, was the nervousness we showed, was it the Phoenix chocking being so close? I don't know! I just hope the loss will remind the guys, a win is not guaranteed, and something they need to work hard for! Still, everything is still in the Phoenix hands, 3 points from 4 games. With the final weekend being against the Wildcats and Phantoms. Next up for the Phoenix is MK, that will be tough! I would be happy with a point from that one!

Attendance: A smaller crowd than usual, but mid-week faceoff's never generate big crowds! I would guess around 700 in the Ice Dome last night!

Phoenix 4 Slough 6 - Phoenix Article

Phoenix 4 Slough 6 - CB Sport Article

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Phoenix v Basingstoke Bison 13th March Game Review

Going into the weekend the Phoenix were at the magic number 7! Just 7 points and the Phoenix would lift their first league title! Needless to say Phoenix fan's are starting to believe! The past weekends pair of games would do nothing to ease any nerves! The Phoenix faced a tough away trip to the Swindon Wildcats. Swindon are a team who have beaten the Phoenix before and are a tough nut to crack in the link centre. Sunday would see the Basingstoke Bison come to the Ice Dome for the last time this season, this is the team that comprehensively turned the Phoenix over in the EPL Cup semi-final not to long ago. Adding to the nerves, the Phoenix suffered in Swindon, James Neil didn't ice as he was unwell, Tom Duggan left the game with a bad shoulder injury and Ben Morgan took a nasty high stick which caused mucho blood loss! Add to the existing loss of Harabin, the Phoenix were carrying 4 injured bodies saturday night!

Thankfully, despite going down by two goals the Phoenix dug deep and pulled out an impressive 4-3 victory. Made even better as all the scoring came from the Phoenix second line! The whole unit is really impressing with Greg Wood, in particular, getting hot at the right time in the season! So, two points secured saturday, the Phoenix now had to look forward to a very tough game against the Bison! As the fans headed to the Ice Dome a nice twist was in store!

As has become customary I now watch the Phoenix warm up from the plexi-glass and I believe it was my girlfriend who nudged me and said....'there's number 44!' and yes, Ladislav Harabin was out warming up! As was Ben Morgan and James Neil. So the dark thoughts of the Phoenix being down 4 players, turned much brighter as the Phoenix would just be missing Tom Duggan! I say 'just missing' of course the Phoenix would feel Duggan's loss on the ice, he brings so much enegery to the team its hard to replace him! Having Morgan/Neil and Harabin would give the Phoenix the defensive stability they have missed for a long time! Also in the Phoenix favour it looked like a certain Mr Chinn would not be icing for the Herd!

Anyway, with a good crowd in the Dome, everyone settled in for a cracker of a game!

First Period: The game got underway and the Phoenix edged the early possession, in fact the Phoenix could have been a good few goals to the good had it not been for the post/crossbar and for the excellent Dean Skinns in net. He may only be a small goalie but he is brilliant! Able to move around the crease very quickly and athletically! The Bison would score first a bit against the play where a defensive error let the Bison through on a 2 on 1 who then pulled Fone out of position for Callum Best to score an easy tap in. The first goal coming after 11min 33sec.

Second Period: With the Phoenix ontop after the first period, except for the scoreline, I worried that the Bison would nick an early goal in the second and leave the Phoenix facing the difficult task of breaking down the Bison. Thankfully the Phoenix first line clicked into gear and, almost like they were cheesed off after being held pointless saturday night, took the game by the scruff of its neck! Kristoffersson got his first goal of the night after 24min 56sec. After crashing the net Kristoffersson. Skinns and a Bison defenceman all ended up in the net but thankfully the puck had gone in first! The second, again from Kristoffersson, came after 28min 34sec to give the Phoenix the lead in the game. The Phoenix would assert their dominance and close out the game with two further goals. Huppe got his only goal of the night at 34min 44sec. The Bison would put everyone on edge again at 37min 13sec when a defensive lapse from Harabin (who had previously been the subject of a pretty nasty boarding from Ben Davies) left Fone exposed and Ciaran Long deaked him brilliantly to score short handed! On the same powerplay, on which the Phoenix had just conceded a goal, Kristoffersson would step up and restore the Phoenix two goal lead with his hattrick goal at 38min 09 sec.

Third Period: The third period was a competitive one, but the Phoenix were always in control. Apart from any mistakes the Bison didn't really come close to scoring, however the teams did continue to exchange opportunities with Skinns and Fone in top form. As the clock wound down the Bison pulled Skinns for the extra skater but the puck broke down the left side with Kristoffersson who, despite the option of Huppe on the far wing, slapshotted the puck into the empty net for a final score of 5-2 Phoenix!

Verdict: A big big big win for the Phoenix! Before the weekend began the Phoenix were 7 points from the league title and, over the weekend suffered an injury filled trip to Swindon, before getting back to the Dome, rejuvenated by Harabin's return, and the recovery of Neil and Morgan to beat a tough Bison team. The end result after all that? Just 3 points needed!! I may allow myself to get a little excited! But not too much! In all seriousness this weekend was big, away at Swindon and home to the Bison, two potentially big banana skins! Those avoided the Phoenix capped a great weekend! Now if Duggan can recover from his shoulder injury the Phoenix could be getting back to health at just the right time!

Attendance: A good crowd against the Bison, probably another around the 1,000 mark!

Phoenix 5 Basigstoke 2 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 5 Basingtsoke 2 - Basingstoke Article
Phoenix 5 Basingstoke 2 - CB Sport Article
Harabin back, but Duggan out! - CB Sport Article

The Phoenix next face the Jets at the Ice Dome this thursday night. This will be another big test of the guys, but they have shown in the past how they can beat the Jets, including the red hot Adam Calder! Should be a good night!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Race for 8th!

Following on from my 'Title Run-in' post the other day, and with recent result between the bottom 3 clubs I thought it worthwhile looking at the battle for the final playoff place this season. Currently in that coveted eighth spot and facing a playoff quarterfinal against the first placed team is the Sheffield Steeldogs. A very difficult team to beat and the possessor of of the most promising players in the EPL, Janis Ozolins the Steeldogs could well hold on to 8th. The Tigers are making a late bid for 8th though, and are probably the hardest working team in the EPL, none of the bottom 3 teams are involved in any cups so for them, every game is like a final!

Current league placings are:

8th / Sheffield Steeldogs Pld 48, 28 Pts
9th / Bracknell Bees Pld 49, 23 Pts
10th / Telford Tigers Pld 48, 22 Pts

With 5 points in hand over the Bees and 6 over the Tigers, the Steeldog's should hold onto that final playoff spot. However, with up to 12 points left for grabs for both Sheffield and Telford, there is potential for change! Let's have a look at the remaining games for the three teams in contention!

Sheffield Steeldogs
12th Mar @ Milton Keynes
13th Mar @ Peterborough
15th Mar v Basingstoke
23rd Mar v Milton Keynes
26th Mar @ Swindon
27th Mar v Basingstoke

The Steeldogs have the luxury of being in that 8th spot, and 5 points in hand, this means they will have to loose 3 times before the Bees can catch up (if the Bees win their games of course!). The Dogs have a difficult series of games before the end of the regular season, games against the Phantoms and Wildcats are must wins for the Steeldogs to secure their playoff berth. I honestly cannot see Sheffield taking points from MK and Basingstoke, the Lightning and Bison should be too strong for them. The Steeldogs change in style has now made them a different prospect for their opposition since Mr Payette took over, and Janis Ozolins can run rings around any defence. Keeping hold of him must be the number 1 priority for the Steeldogs this summer. While I do not see the Dogs beating MK/Basingstoke, I can see them nicking the odd point, and its these little extra points that may push them beyond the reach of the Bees/Tigers!

Bracknell Bees
12th Mar @ Slough
13th Mar v Telford
19th Mar v Guildford
20th Mar @ Peterborough
27th Mar v Peterborough

The Bees are a club run using money from the fans, so will never have the biggest budget in the league. But they are a competitive club who have players that could walk onto any roster in the EPL. In Jaroslav Cesky and Michael Pinc they have two of the best players in the league and when put together, are a leathal combination. The Bees are just 5 points behind the Steeldogs, looking at their run in I can see them getting 6 points to snatch that 8th spot, but that relies on the Steeldogs loosing all there remaining games. It's the Telford game and the home/away set against the unpredictable Phantoms where I see the Bees best chance of getting the W's! In reality I cannot see the Bees making the post season, so their main focus must be to avoid the wooden spoon!

Telford Tigers
12th Mar v Peterborough
13th Mar @ Bracknell
16th Mar v Milton Keynes
20th Mar v Slough
26th Mar @ Guildford
27th Mar v Guildford

Telford are a team, I have admitted on this blog, I have a soft spot for! Having played there as a junior and the Tigers being the Phoenix 2nd local rivals I like to keep an eye on their results. Which I know I started covering on this blog, but a recent house move has cut down the time I have to put a post together. Sorry Tigers fans! The Tigers have pushed the Phoenix close on a couple of occasions this season and, had they had their full quota of imports all season, could well be securely in the playoff places. However the playoffs couldnt have been a goal at the start of the season, just finishing the season intact would/will be a massive achievement. One that will go miles in securing sponsorship and new fans for next season, as they will see a fan owned/run team can work in UK hockey. Just think, what a playoff appearance could do to the coffers? Ive already talk about how the Tigers are possible the hardest working team on the ice. But they have other parts which make me think they will make the post season. In Andres Maslovskis they have a talented import who regularly scores points day in day out, and in Luke Brittle they have one of the hottest young British talent on the ice. Finally, and the biggest reason I think they could make the playoffs, is their goalkeeping tandem of Declan Ryan and Martin Clarkson. Both these goalies have frustrated the Phoenix every game and are surely destined for big things in their careers. The Tigers have been hampered all season by playing with less than the full quota of imports, but this hasn't defeated them. Realistically, their remaing games does not offer enough points to overhaul Sheffield in 8th. But with the way they play, and more home than away games. There is opportunity there for the Tigers to do it!

So after all that, while the heart says the Tigers can nick that 8th spot, the head says they won't! I do believe they can take 7th spot from the Bees and get close to the Steeldogs, but there is just to few games left for Telford to make up the points needed!

What do you think? Agree or, more likely, completely disagree? Let me know!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

EPL Title run in.....Part 2!


Basingstoke remaining games:
12th Mar v Guildford
13th Mar @ Phoenix
15th Mar @ Sheffield
19th Mar v Swindon
20th Mar @ Milton Keynes
26th Mar v Milton Keynes
27th Mar @ Sheffield

7 games left, 3 home 4 away.
Plus 2 EPL Cup Final games

The Herd are one of those teams that is always in with a shout, they are tough to beat, but can also be guilty of not turning up. In terms of a league title their chance has now mathmatically gone. But they do have the playoffs to look forward to, and an EPL Cup final against the Jets. In the playoff race it looks likely the Bison will play the Lightning, although that depends on how many, if any, points are dropped by Slough. The Bison's run in is probably the toughest of the top 5. They have 9 games to fit in before the end of the month, and 6 of those will be against clubs at the top of the table, all with things to win for themselves! Putting aside the EPL Cup final, the Bison have two pair's of games that will decide their season. The first, this weekend, sees them play the Flames and Phoenix, both with title aspirations. The second pair are the home/away set against the Lightning. These pair of games could well decide who finishes 3rd/4th and 5th! I think the Bison will get at least 8 further points, but alot will depend on how much they are distracted by the EPL Cup final. For me, the Bison should forget about the league games, they have qualified for the playoffs, the only variable is, do they play the Lightning or possibly Peterborough, and concentrate on the Cup. It could well be their best chance of winning some silverware!

Milton Keynes remaining games:
12th Mar v Sheffield
13th Mar @ Guildford
16th Mar @ Telford
19th Mar v Phoenix
20th Mar v Basingstoke
23rd Mar @ Sheffield
26th Mar @ Basingstoke
27th Mar v Slough

8 games left, 4 home 4 away.

MK, ah MK, a late start to the season, struggling for most of the season, acquiring their 5th import in Blaz Emersic, the Lightning have never really caught fire over the course of the whole season. They have gone through it carrying a fair few games in hand over teams above/around them in the league, but have never really been able to capitalise on them. As a result they have 8 games to fit in before the end of March, 5 of those against teams above them in the table! Nice easy run in then! Potentially they could reach 2nd place if they win all their remaining games and Guildford loose all theirs. Whats more likely is the Lightning will remain in 5th place. Starting too late and too much inconsistency has cost them a higher finish in the defence of their league title. One thing is for certain though, don't bet against the Lightning come playoff time. They lost out last time as the title hangover saw them loose to Swindon over two legs. So you can be damn sure they will want to right that wrong and be at Coventry this year!

Phew, so a big post today, but with no Phoenix home game I had to do something! This posting has been in the works for about two weeks as well, so let me know what you think! Do you agree? Disagree? Where do you see the Title/EPL Cup and Playoff trophies going?

Next post will be the Race for 8th battle, the 8th placed spot has looked to have been sewn up for a while but, I honestly think the Tigers recent run has spiced things up a little! I'll be having a look at the Tigers/Bees and Steeldog's run in to see if the Dogs will keep hold of 8th or whether the Tigers could cause an upset and make it to the playoffs!

Monday, 7 March 2011

EPL Title run in.....Part 1!

So we are now into the final two months of the regular season and things are hotting up nicely. This is a post I have been mulling over for a while, written and re-written, hopefully it all makes sense! I wanted to have a look at the run in for all teams more or less in contention for the EPL title. That's the Phoenix/Flames/Bison/Jets and Lightning. Lets have a look at each run in and ponder what may/may not happen!

Phoenix remaining games:
12th Mar @ Swindon
13th Mar v Basingstoke
17th Mar v Slough
19th Mar @ MK
26th Mar @ Peterborough
27th Mar v Swindon

6 games left, 3 home 3 away.

Series split against title contenders:
v Guildford, won 2 lost 4
v Basingstoke, won 3 lost 2*
v Slough, won 3 lost 2*
v Milton Keynes, won 4 lost 1**

*one game left to play in Altrincham
**one game left to play in Milton Keynes

The Phoenix hold a 6 point lead at the top of the table heading into the final half dozen games before the end of the regular season. A tough win of the Steeldogs saw one potential banana skin avoided, the Phoenix now face a run in where they could potentially win all games remaining. Personally, I see the away game at MK and the home game versus Slough as the most likely to cause an upset. I know you cannot take the Phantoms or Swindon lightly but, at this stage of th season, and with whats at stake, I would expect the Phoenix to win those games! Looking at the games remaining, I would be happy with 8 points from the Swindon x2, Basingstoke x1 and Peterborough x1 games. Then a total of 2 points from the Slough/MK games. This would give the Phoenix a final tally of 90 points for the season. I see the Phoenix having at least another weekend to build up points, before a potentially title deciding pair of games on the 17th and 19th March.

Guildford remaining games:
12th Mar @ Basingstoke
13th Mar v Milton Keynes
19th Mar @ Bracknell
20th Mar v Swindon
26th Mar v Telford
27th Mar @ Telford

6 games left, 3 home 3 away.

With the disappointing loss to the Jet's in the EPL Cup semi final the Flames, like the Phoenix, will not have to worry about fitting in a two legged final into their game schedule before the end of the season. The Flames have a big roster and many talented players, to take the title they will need to win all of their remaining games and hope the Phoenix slip up on at least 3 occasions. Unlike the Phoenix who, I think have another weekend to go before their big pair of games. Guildford face their big test this weekend coming, with a tough trip to Basingstoke before welcoming the MK Lightning to the Spectrum. Both the Bison and Lightning are capable of upsetting the Flames, however the Flames can roll over both of them. Alot depends on what mood Hala is in! The other tricky weekend I see for the Flames is the home/away set against the Tigers. I know most of you would say, nah, easy 4 pointer there. But many teams are finding recently, Phoenix included, that the Tigers are damn hard to beat! Plus, in a post im working on at the minute for the Race fo 8th, The Tigers are slowly creeping back in to contention, so will have a vested interest in getting as many points as possible from their remaining games! Like the Phoenix, I see the Flames getting at least 8 points possibly 10 from their remaining games. This would give the Flames 82 or 84 points for a second place finish.

Slough remaining games:
12th Mar v Bracknell
13th Mar @ Swindon
17th Mar @ Phoenix
19th Mar v Peterborough
20th Mar @ Telford
27th Mar @ Milton Keynes

6 games left, 2 home 4 away.
Plus 1 EPL Cup game v Guildford

Slough have been an improved side since Emersic left and Calder came in. In fact I think you would be hard pressed to find a Jet's fan who doesn't think they improved on that position. Emersic who? Slough have qualified for the end of season playoff's but are in a strange position really. If they wanted to, they could really push Guildford for that 2nd spot and face Swindon rather than Peterborough. Or, they have to be looking over their shoulder at the Bison, but more likely the MK Lightning, as either side can catch them for 3rd. Looking at their remaining games, I see the Jet's securing at least 4 more win's, against the Bees/Cats/Phantoms and Tigers. However of those four teams at least two are still battling for the 8th and final playoff spot. I cant see the Bees taking it, but I can see the Tigers getting it if Sheffield slip up. Those 8 points could see the Jet's into 2nd of the Flames fall apart but, more likely, those points will secure their 3rd place finish. The Jets won the playoff weekend last season, and in Calder have the firepower to do so again. Like the Bison, the Jets concentration on the league will be distracted by the EPL Cup final games against the Bison. The Jet's are a strange team, wealthy owner, small crowds, success but also disappointment. I can see the Jet's winning the EPL Cup, and I can see them winning the playoffs, but, and a big but, I can see them not winning anything! Despite the addition of Calder, they can be shut down, the Phoenix did so on Calder's first visit to Altrincham. After those ramblings, back to the point of the post, I think the Jet's will stay in 3rd, while they can be caught, I think they will pick up enough points on the way to stay 3rd.

Right, that's it for now, part 2 to follow!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Phoenix v Telford Tigers 27th February Game review

The Phoenix had a Tigers weekend saturday and sunday, saturday seeing the team and fans head south to Shropshire for the first game of the weekend. Before welcoming the Tigers back to Altrincham sunday for the last game in the series between the two clubs. Prior to the weekend the Phoenix had a perfect record against the Tigers, however of the four games played,I would argue the Phoenix only played their best hockey in two of them.

So saturday the Phoenix and their merry bunch of fans headed off to Telford for another contest, one that would prove to be another close game! In fact the Tigers took the lead after just 55seconds, but Kristoffersson would break Tigers hearts scoring with 1min 46sec to go, and added an empty netter to seal a 4-2 victory for the Phoenix .

Sunday saw the Tigers come to the Ice Dome for the last time this season, bringing with them a healthy contingent of fans. The Tigers were still without two imports and the Phoenix still missing Harabin. As far as I understand it Harabin is seeing a specialist and hopes to be back on the ice as soon as possible!

First Period: The Phoenix started brightly in the game and were quick to exert pressure on the Tigers, for the majority of the period the puck stayed in the opposition end, the Telford goalie on fine form keeping his team in the game! When ever the Phoenix and Tigers have played each other the goaltending has single handedly kept them in the game. The same goes for sunday night, the Phoenix could have easily been 4 or 5 goals to the good had it not been for some wonderful saves. The Phoenix did finally break through after 10min 17sec when the Phoenix broke quickly up ice and Kristoffersson slotted home a shorthanded goal. Kristoffersson got his second of the game on the powerplay this time after 18min 16sec. The period ran out and many inside the Dome headed off for the break in good spirits. The Phoenix dominating the game so far.

Second Period: The theme continued in the second, the Tigers battling hard but the Phoenix coping and keeping the puck in the Tigers zone. First goal of the period came for Stephen Wallace just 1min 08sec into the second session. Wallace, like Kristoffersson, would score his second at 24min 41sec making the score 4-0 Phoenix. The Phoenix made it 5-0 through Curtis Huppe after 27min 04sec. This signalled a goalie change for the Phoenix and Summerfield came in for Fone. Personally I thought this was a big mistake. Putting our back up nettie in for over half the game, against a Tigers team that was more than capable of pushing the Phoenix to the limit. So it proved to be, through a combination of the Tigers sensing backup nettie blood, the Phoenix switching off completely thinking job done, and a few goals Summerfield would want back, the Tigers raced right back into the game. Their first came at 31min 40sec through NacKriel, number two came less than two minutes later through number 16, timed 33min 17sec. Player coach Tom Watkins got their second at 36min 26sec. You could feel the tension/anxiety in the air, Phoenix fans not quite sure what was happening. Worrying their team was coming close to throwing away what was a comfortable game! Many home fans in the Dome would have been glad to hear the buzzer go, now only hoping Tony would read the riot act and put Foney back in goal.

Third Period: With Fone back between the pipes the Phoenix set about securing the game. What ever Tony said in the locker room during the interval seemed to work! The Phoenix were back to dominating possession and frustrating the Tigers. Only one more goal was to follow and it was Kristoffersson who grabbed his hattrick at 44min 09sec with a real peach of a goal. That was it for scoring, the Phoenix third line got a good run out and Miller and Sharp were on the end of some good chances only to be denied by the Tigers goalie. Final score 6-3 Phoenix.

Verdict: Phew, a win that the Phoenix almost threw away! Overall it was a good performance and a comfortable game for the Phoenix, for 50mins of the 60!! I have no problem with playing your back up netminder, and 5-0 up looking comfortable against the Tigers why not. But I would never have played him as early as Tony did. With over half the game there was still time for the Tigers to fight back. Like I said above im not laying the blame fully at Summerfield's door, it is a team game after all. It seemed like the Phoenix shut off completely and allowed the Tigers back in. We know from experience how close the Tigers have come to turning us over, they cannot be taken lightly. Putting all that aside it was pleasing to see the Phoenix comfortable on the puck and dominating an opposition once again. Hopefully this form can be continued through to the end of the season!

Attendance: With a good away following and a couple of groups in the Ice Dome, I would have guessed around 900-1,000 in the Ice Dome

Phoenix TV:

Manchester Phoenix TV 02/03/11 from Manchester Phoenix TV on Vimeo.

Phoenix 6 Telford 3 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 6 Telford 3 - CB Sport Article
Phoenix 6 Telford 3 - Tigers Article