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!