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!!
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: