The Angry Budgie Live

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Phoenix Champions Review - The Defence

So we've had the goalies, now lets look at the meanest defence in the EPL!

Number 4 - Luke Boothroyd - Captain
Played: 57, Goals: 0, Assists: 12, Points: 12
Captain Luke Boothroyd returned after a very good debut EPL season, Luke has never been one to put up lots and lots of points. His game is more suited to being a defenceman, he is never a player who will be first up the ice and getting on the net. He is a stay at home defenceman, and one that is often needed in the EPL. He would be the perfect player if he were bigger, but his size is by no means a disadvantage to his game. He uses his brain well enough to negate any size difference to an opponent! I cant remember if I have mentioned this before but, Luke is the guy who has laid Brad Voth out on the ice a good few times. He has carried on doing so ever since! The likeable lad from Huddersfield gets on with his job quietly but with ruthless effectiveness. A great stick handler, Luke can position himself well on the ice and can light the afterburners if necessary. All these things shone during the season just ended and just reward was the EPL championship!

Budgie Rating: Another solid season from Luke, 8/10.

Number 6 - Ben Morgan
Played: 57, Goals: 9, Assists: 31, Points: 40
Ben was a bit of a marmite player at the beginning of the season, especially to those who post regularly on the Phoenix forum. Personally I liked the offensive bias to his game. He did find himself out of position a few times in those early games, but he learnt quickly and became a very good two way defenceman. So much so, that come the end of the year, he is one of the first players Phoenix fans want back next season. Plus judging by the anxiety caused by rumors he is off to Sheffield, the Phoenix faithful want another season from Morgs! A title win in his first season with the Phoenix will be difficult to top, Morgan could play in the EIHL, but icetime would be limited. His development would continue brilliantly in the EPL and he could go on to establish himself as an EPL veteran, if he didn't want to make the step to the EIHL! For me, i'd have Morgan back in a heartbeat! He was good during 2010/11, he will be great in 2011/12!

Budgie Rating: After an initial wobble, Morgan settled himself well! 7/10

Number 13 - Max Drakely
Played: 17, Goals: 0, Assists: 0, Points: 0
A difficult year for Max, but a year he will have learnt alot from! As I have often said Max is at the stage, in his development, Ben Wood was back last season. By that I mean, very limited ice time! The times he was given ice time Max did well. Looked nervous at times, but that's to be expected! Just like Ben, Max is not afraid to throw himself about on the ice. In fact, some people on Phoenix forum, think he edges Ben in terms of physicality! I'd love Max to come back next year, but he faces the same questions as Ben. Do you stick around and take as much icetime as you can get or, do you move elsewhere in search of ice time? The EPL is a development league, and Max is only in the early stages of his, so another year at the Phoenix, another year learning from Tony Hand would stand him in good stead for the future!

Budge Rating: Difficult to give a rating due to limited ice time! 5/10

Number 15 - Ben Wood
Played: 57, Goals: 3, Assists: 1, Points: 4
Another year playing almost every position on the ice for Ben, not that he minds! The tall Macclesfield lad got stuck in and played hard when given the ice time. He has suffered a bit of flack on the Phoenix forum come the end of the season, personally, unwarranted in my opinion. The past season he has learnt alot, he positions himself well on the ice, uses his stick on a great poke-check and can level a player against the boards if needed! He also has a wicked wrist shot, if you hadn't noticed! Ben defiantly saw an increase in his ice time this year, still not getting massive amounts, but he would ice a fair bit in each game. I would be delighted for Ben to return next year to continue his development but Ben, like Adam Summerfield, must decide if regular ice time can be found away from the Ice Dome!

Budgie Rating: Another good year for Ben. 6/10

Number 40 - Pavel Gomeniuk
Played: 57, Goals: 11, Assists: 44, Points: 55
My memory of Gomeniuk from his Stingray days was, that he is a steady stay at home defenceman who is always reliable. Those memories were not wrong, poached from the Scimitars last summer, Pavel came in and was the proverbial rock on the Phoenix blue line. Not the fastest across the ice, but a physical player with a massive slapshot. To have a successful D, and a winning team, you need players like him. Pavel was also a player who could step up to the plate when needed, I remember important goals through the season, the most being the Phoenix first goal in the playoff semi-final against MK. Scored at the opposite end to the Phoenix faithful, his slapshot was seen by everyone lasering to the top left corner, except for Hollyhead in goal! Mr Reliable put his body on the line for the Phoenix on numerous occasions, blocking shot after shot. During the run in to the title, I don't think any other player's body suffered as much abuse as his! Especially his ankles! Now, like Ben Morgan, Pavel is a must re-sign for many a Phoenix fan, me included!

Budgie Rating: Simply superb! 9/10.

Number 44 - Ladislav Harabin
Played: 45, Goals: 9, Assists: 24, Points: 33
Possibly the best defenceman in the EPL, no surprise this offseason that rumors abound that some EIHL clubs are after him! Not a tall guy, but built like the proverbial outhouse! A tough mean eastern European defenceman with a bullet of a shot and some silky skills. He loved to take the puck all the way from behind the Phoenix net, through the opposition, to their goal. My girlfriend and I often wondered if there was a frustrated forward in him wanting to burst out! The man is so tough, it took a severed artery to force him off the ice! If Tambo is to be believed, even that didn't stop him from wanting to carry on! Loved by the fans, he built up a great partnership with Pavel, and where one went, the other followed! Or that could be because Pavel acted as his interpreter, who knows! But in Ladzi and Pasha the Phoenix had one of the best defensive pairings in the league! Come back Ladzi come back!

Budgie Rating: Pure class! 10/10.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Phoenix Champions Review - The Goalies

So lets get going with a few end of season posts! The next few will concern the players of the 2010/11 EPL Champion Manchester Phoenix team and i'll go through the team over three posts and offer a few thoughts on each one and give an 'out of 10' Budgie rating! I had intended to do a 'Thoughts on the season' type post first, but couldn't really get going on that, so I'll do the player reviews first as it may help build a picture of the season just gone.

First up, its the goaltending duo at the Phoenix, Stephen Fone and Adam Summerfield.

Number 31 - Stephen Fone
EPL Season: Played - 52, GAA - 2.75, Save % - 90.55
If you go take a look at the Iceman-Epl Goalie ( page you will see that Steve Fone is ranked number 6 in the EPL table in terms of netminders. I know stats don't lie, but I feel that is an artificial placing for BT. The other stat I would like to bring up, over the course of the 54 game regular season the Phoenix conceded the fewest goals in the league. A big part of that is BT's improved performance this past year. Season 09/10 Foney's confidence would take a hit easily if things were not going well, his rebounds were terrible, and a large part of his season was affected by the shoulder injury sustained over the christmas period. Fast forward to 10/11 and Foney put in a much more consistent display. More athletic, more awareness and better rebounds. Crucially, he also had an injury free season. He would sometimes still frustrate with his play behind the net, but at times he could single handedly win a game. I remember the playoff games, he was seeing the puck so big he was pulling off some amazing saves! The Rotherham native really established himself as a great number one goalie in the EPL! I think there are better (slightly) goalies in the EPL but, given the Phoenix will never have the biggest budget in the league, BT is the best guy for our roster. I would be more than happy to see him back between the pipes for the 11/12 title defending season.

Budgie Rating: A solid 8/10 for BT!

Number 30 - Adam Summerfield
EPL Season: Played - 52, GAA - 2.78, Save % - 89.40
Being a backup netminder is, possibly, the hardest job in UK ice hockey bar a few exceptions. You'll spend most of your time warming the bench hoping for ice time, and then trying not to stuff things up when you get it! I remember last season saying, Adam had a great year but looked a little nervous on the ice at EPL level, and would often make the initial save and have no idea where the puck is! This season has seen a big improvement from Adam, he has played much more this year and was given a few more starts too. His movement around the net is better, he is seeing the puck well and, either he has new pads or he has bulked up, but he fills the net better too! There was still the odd moment where he seemed unsure as to where a puck was after he made a save, but he was making more, and more difficult saves. He genuinely faces a difficult summer in terms of his future career. If things stay as they are, he will not get the starting spot at the Phoenix will Fone is still at the club. Adam is now at the point where he will want to get his own starting spot, I don't know if that would be at EPL level just yet though! So he has a few options:

1. Stay as back up to Foney at the Phoenix.
2. Move to another EPL club as backup, but with a little more icetime.
3. Become a number 1 nettie at an ENL club.

Difficult times ahead! I don't see another EPL club giving him a starter position just yet, his best bet for increased ice time would be a club who share ice time pretty evenly between their goalie duo. Two clubs spring to mind, MK and Telford. Adam could do well in those situations, but alot will depend on how those clubs proceed. MK, depends on Hollyhead, if he and Mettham stay. Also Telford, if they keep Ryan/Clarkson he wont go their either! As you can see, tough choices ahead for the Congleton native!

Budgie Rating - A good 6/10 for Summers.

So next up will be reviews of the meanest defence in the EPL!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

EPL Playoff Finals Weekend - Coventry

So...that's it! The EPL season 2010/11 is over! The fat lady has sung, the lights have gone out!
The Budgie has returned from Coventry and now thoughts must be written and posted for you all to see!

A great weekend was had and, despite the weekend not going so well for the Phoenix, defeated at the semi-final stage again, the weekend on the whole was very enjoyable! The Phoenix faithful turned out in force, over 560 packed out blocks 7/8 and 9 at the Coventry SkyDome and rocked the joint. You can still read my thoughts from last years finals weekend!



The Phoenix championship banner:


So, it was a sunny Friday when The Budgie set off for Coventry, and the glorious weather would continue all weekend, bathing EPL hockey fans in warm sunshine. With the Podcast also on tour, and going live it would be a cracking weekend, and a great weekend in terms of fan coverage. The Phoenix also took over The Old Windmill pub not too far from the SkyDome, to claim it as a Phoenix fan meeting point. Despite the power going on sunday! Haha!

Anyway, from my finals weekend preview post you will remember I picked a Phoenix v Flames final with the Flames emerging victorious. per my quarter finals prediction I was 50% right! Read on to find out which 50% I got right!

Semi-Final 1 Phoenix v Lightning


This game I had the Phoenix down as winning, I thought the strength in dept would be key for the Phoenix. Sadly this strength in dept never really shone through! With the Phoenix faithful roaring them on the Phoenix and Lightning cancelled each other out for a goaless first period. Both Hollyhead and Fone, between the pipes, were pressed into action. So far the Lightning had managed to stifle the Phoenix top line and frustrate the second line. As such the Phoenix were not able to really settle and get into the game fully.As the game progressed the tension rose, MK lept to a 2-0 lead during the game which depressed the massed Phoenix ranks even more. With some chants of 'play like you want it' emerging from the choir boys. It was looking like the Phoenix would be disappointed once more and, as the clock wound down the Phoenix fans took to their feet to give one last battle cry. Then it happened, with less than two minutes in third period up stepped Pavel Gomeniuk who unleashed a monster of a shot to break the Phoenix duck! It couldn't happen could it? With 30sec to go Tony Hand was found clear in the hash marks and made no mistake, the Phoenix end of the SkyDome erupted the Phoenix had, as they had all season, dug deep and dragged out a result. Into OT the Lightning piled on the pressure while, again, frustrating the Phoenix. So it wasn't any surprise that, with 20sec to go, somehow the Lightning forced the puck over the line and broke Phoenix hearts! The Lightning winning and advancing to the final on a score of 3-2 after OT!

On balance the Phoenix didn't deserve to go through, over 64ish minutes the Phoenix only outdid the Lightning for two! No complaints from me! The only downside was, if the Phoenix could have played like we know they could, they would have made it to the final!

Semi-Final 2 Flames v Phantoms
This game was a little easier to predict, and in the end, was all over after the first ten minutes! The Phantoms had the support of most of the crowd inside the SkyDome but couldn't live with the Flames. The Flames looked much slicker, much more creative, and had so much more strength across three lines, and Mark Lee in nets looked in great form! After the 3rd goal went in the game really petered out! The Flames eased off and continually frustrated attempts by the Phantoms to get back into the game. In fact the game got a bit boring for the most part. Until the third period where the Phantoms managed to get onto the scoreboard and give their fans something to celebrate. At the same time the Flames did a little scoring themselves, final score ended up 6-1 Flames.

The Final Flames v Lightning



Prior to the final it was the Sheffield Steelhawks v the Nottingham Leopards in the U18 final. The game was ok, Sheffield were by far the better team! The highlight of the game though, and possible highlight of the weekend, was the chant banter between Flames and Phoenix fans. Some real pearlers and much laughter was had! Anyway onto the final! It was an entertaining final, I thought the Flames edged most of the play. Most of the neutrals in the crowd were hoping for an MK win, however after a rather unsavory incident at the end of the Phoenix v Lightning semi-final the Phoenix lent their considerable voice to the Flames cause. The only incidents I recall of note were a nasty high sticking incident which left Michael Farn with a suspected broken jaw, and the Flames Matt Towe with a 5 plus match, and Mark Lee in the Flames net seemingly constant issues with the ice in his crease. It was quite funny watching Hollyhead/Fone and Wall all playing with no issues in the crease and yet, Lee not very happy! In the end it mattered little, the Flames held on and, with an empty net goal, won the final by a score of 5-3.

Special mention must go to Dave Cloutman the stripey, he took a real nasty fall on the opening faceoff in the middle session and looked very unwell thereafter! He lasted another 5mins before needing to go off, now many people think he reacted badly when throwing his house down the tunnel, I think he was more frustrated by not being able to finish reffing the EPL final. Plus by the look on his face when he came to visit Tambo was a look of disappointment. With word of his imminent retirement its a real shame too!

So that's it, a finals weekend done and dusted!
Hope you have enjoyed reading The Angry Budgie over the course of this season, the summer does not mean the end of the Budgie though! It may get quiet, but wont be silenced!

Next few posts will cover the season just gone and a player by player review of the 2010/11 title winning season!

Phoenix 2 Milton Keynes Lightning 3 - CB Sport
Phoenix v MK Lightning Semi Final - The Bolton News
Tony Hand proud of the Phoenix - MEN Website
Who is the Phoenix number 1? - CB Sport

Thursday, 7 April 2011

EPL 2010/11 Season Playoff Finals Preview

So..the final four have been chosen!

The Guildford Flames, the Manchester Phoenix, the Milton Keynes Lightning and the Peterborough Phantoms will all converge on the Coventry SkyDome for the last hurrah of the 2010-11 EPL season. There were some expected results and, as some of you astute readers will have noticed, a certain team from Slough that will not be appearing in Coventry. Yes, despite my earlier prediction, the Phantoms overcame the Jets with a superb shut out victory in the hangar to send them to the final party.

Going back to my post last week you will see I had a 50% success rating, with the Phoenix and Flames making it comfortably through to the finals weekend. Of the other two, I picked the Bison over MK mainly due to the Bison having the second leg on home ice. It was another tight game, which was to be expected, but the MK LIghtning did just enough in the end. I will defer to the two Bison centric blogs on my blogroll over on the right to fill you in on the details of the two legged series! The other I picked the Jets over the Phantoms. I said the key would be how close the Phantoms kept things after the first leg. After 60mins of hockey the Jets left with a two goal cushion, 2nd leg you would expect the Jets to do it. But no, the Phantoms had other ideas, a 3-0 shutout is simply amazing! That team deserve their place in Coventry on the strength of that performance alone! Even if the Jets were not at 100% I would have expected them to do it over two legs! But hey, as I said, playoff hockey is whole different animal!

With the final four confirmed, the semi-finals look like this:

@3pm - Manchester Phoenix v Milton Keynes Lightning
@7pm - Guildford Flames v Peterborough Phantoms

So lets have a look at the semi-finals and ponder who will make it to the big dance on sunday and who will be left lifting a shiny pot come sunday evening!

Semi Final 1 - Phoenix (5) v Lightning (1)
To be honest, with the Phantoms putting the Jets out, with Stephen Wall capable of wonders in net, I don't think you will find many Phoenix.Lightning fans who are disappointed to be avoiding them in the semi's! The Phoenix/Lightning games have been crackers all year, with one-sided blow outs each and numerous close games. The fixture is already one which both fanbases look for come the fixture announcement! The figures in brackets above show how the regular season series was split. Pretty one sided, to be honest I was shocked when I totted the results up, I thought it was closer! Though the games themselves were, the Phoenix were just able to secure the win on more occasions this year. That said MK will be up for this, they have a chance to topple the new champions, the team that took their crown, and a chance to finish their indifferent season with some silverware. As to who will win, crikey, that's a tough question, Either team could! I am going to go for a Phoenix win, and im basing that on my (trying to be impartial here) view that the Phoenix have more strength in depth than MK along with a massive travelling support to roar them along. That being said, if MK win they could well have my support in the final! It will be a great game, I want the Phoenix to win it, but if not, hey, we did win the big prize!!

Prediction: Phoenix to squeeze through!

Semi Final 2 - Flames (5) v Phantoms (1)
Another one sided season split, but im sure I said that talking about the Phantoms/Slough quarter last week and look what good that did! The Flames are the obvious favorites here, but playoff get my drift! This could be a classic game of the irresistible force (Flames offence) meets the immovable object (Phantoms defence). In their pair of games against Slough the Phantoms have shown they can get the job done in difficult circumstances and, while the Flames have been to Coventry before, the Phantoms have won it all in the past and could well have a large portion of the SkyDome backing them! The Phantoms have to play their best, anything less and the Flames will walk it. For the Flames they must guard against complacency, their extra firepower is not going to guarantee them passage to the final. While I would hope (selfishly) for a Phoenix/Phantoms final, I think the Flames will win it. If they can score early they will but, the longer the Phantoms frustrate the Flames, the more I see the Phantoms make it!

Prediction: Flames to have just a bit too much in the end!

The Final - Phoenix (2) v Flames (4)
1st v 2nd, a Phoenix battling the Flames, any more? This is the final I can see, and will probably be the final that we wont see now ive said all the above! Haha! The season split has the nod going towards the Flames, but the Phoenix do have the strength in depth to deal with the Flames and could well win the game. The key will come down to the defence for the Phoenix. If the D help out Steve Fone, and Fone is in top form the Phoenix will win. But if they make any mistakes the Flames will capitalize plus, in Nathan Rempel they have a guy who loves playing the Phoenix! So in terms of a prediction, my heart wants to go for a Phoenix win, but my head thinks the Flames may just do it! They have the added incentive of wanting to finish a superb season with something to show for it, and to banish past losses in Coventry. It will be close, it will be tense, but maybe the big bucks may finally pay for the Flames!

Prediction: Flames to take it in a close one!

So there you have it, a Phoenix fan who things his team wont win it! Im either mad, or keeping my expectations low so a loss wont hurt as much, or a win will feel that much better! Of course all my predictions above could be wrong, lets face it I was 50% in the last round. So, below are the other possible final combinations:

Lightning v Flames
Lightning v Phantoms

Looking at either of those combinations I would pick the Flames against the Lightning based on their excellent run of form going into the playoffs, then I would pick the Lightning in a final against the Phantoms. The Phantoms have great defence, but I just think the Lightning pack the better offensive punch to step up in big games!

Phoenix TV, Steeldogs quarters

Monday, 4 April 2011

Playoff Quarter Final 2nd Leg - 3rd April Game Review

After a league title comes the hangover?

The Phoenix had the difficult task of re-focussing their efforts towards a possible EPL playoff final push, standing in their way was the not so insignificant spectre of Andre Payette and the Sheffield Steeldogs. Since Payette has taken over the Steeldogs have added more than a measure of...errr....steel? Prior to his arrival the Steeldogs would play hockey, and more often than not a comfortable win would be secured. However today they have added a whole new physical element to their game, with more than a helping of dodgy/illegal play to boot! For the Phoenix it has been very good at disrupting our usual style of play, the Phoenix have still been able to win, but it usually comes at a cost, with the Phoenix picking up a fair few injuries as a result of some questionable play by the Steeldogs!

Saturday's away trip to Sheffield saw a massive contingent of Phoenix fans head across the pennines, for me the key would be to stay healthy and keep the scores close. Well the Phoenix had other ideas, and skated out of Ice Sheffield with a 6-2 victory. Helped by Payette getting himself thrown out the game with a match penalty to boot. Meaning he would miss sunday's 2nd leg in Altrincham.

So the Phoenix faithful filled the Altrincham Ice Dome for one last time in the 2010-11 season to cheer on the guys to their second successive Coventry appearance. The Phoenix at full strength, the Steeldogs minus Payette!

First Period: With a 4 goal cushion from the first leg the Phoenix had to keep calm and nullify the Steeldogs offence. They had to look after Ozonlins and deal with the physical play, a task the Phoenix did very well during the opening 20 minutes. The Phoenix created most of the chances in the opening session, and the first goal would come for the Phoenix on the powerplay. At 13min 13sec the puck was cycled round to Tony Hand who stepped in off the blue line and, with no options, blasted a slap shot past Ben Bowns in goal. The man can shoot! James Archer doubled the advantage less than a minute later at 14min 01sec. After that, with the aggregate scores at 8-2 the game was done and dusted. So far Sharp had not been given any ice time, but his presence was enough to keep messers Grundmanis/Bebris quiet all game!

Second Period: Not alot happened in the second period, as the game wad done the Phoenix eased off and just kept the Steeldogs chances to the minimum. Tony Hand had changed into his civvies and was coaching from the bench for the period.

Third Period: With Tony Hand on the bench, and Kristoffersson taking an early night watching from the stands the Phoenix were not taking any risks. Even Sharp was rested, more needed in Coventry than getting a needless game/match penalty in this game! With the game won and progress assured the Phoenix eased up, it was perhaps down to this the Steeldogs got on the board. Their first of the night coming after 42minutes, I must apologise I didn't catch the scorer! At 44min 33sec Huppe stepped up to restore the Phoenix 2 goal lead making it 3-1 Phoenix. Wallace scored next with some superb play from the second line he just about forced the puck over the line at 48min 07sec. As the game wound down the Steeldogs would score the final goal of the game at 52min 44sec through Phoenix old boy Ryan Johnson. Thankful an upset was avoided the game ended 4-2 Phoenix and 10-4 on aggregate.

Verdict: A very tricky pair of games negotiated comfortably and professionally. The Phoenix dealt well with the Steeldogs play and closed out the series in fine style. Sheffield could have done better, but their player coach did it for them, getting thrown out in the first game. Im more happy that the Phoenix have come out the weekend with no serious injuries and, bar a few nocks, head to Coventry at full strength!

Attendance: A good crowd in the Dome, i'd guess around 1,000.

Phoenix 4 Sheffield 2 - MEN Article
Kristoffersson Eyes a Double - CB Sport
Phoenix 4 Sheffield - CB Sport