Now for the rest of the forwards......
Number 16 - Joe Miller
Played: 34, Goals: 18, Assists: 15, Points: 33 (Peterborough)
Played: 17, Goals: 4, Assists: 6, Points: 10 (Manchester)
Joe joined the Phoenix from the Phantoms during the latter half of the season, the was probably the first time the Phoenix have signed an extra player to enhance the squad. Sharp came in just before christmas to replace a previously departed player, so Miller was an addition to the squad. He really joined at the right time, as the Phoenix had been experiencing a bit of a slump heading into the business end of the season. His fresh energy really was a shot in the arm and spurred the team on during those final months. While Joe's point production dropped from nearly a point a game he was the final piece in a really effective third line for the Phoenix. Joe added some height to the line and a really hard work ethic, as did the whole of that third line. Joe's arrival probably helped the Phoenix win the league. Being able to roll three strong lines helped take the pressure of Hand/Huppe/Kristoffersson in terms of ice time and gave the squad that extra stamina to get over the line. Those of you will remember Miller had iced for the Phoenix before, in their first season as the Phoenix during the EIHL days. Joe struggled in that year, but has come back a better player, and a much better fit in the EPL.
The Budgie Rating: 6.5/10
Number 19 - Tom Duggan
Played: 52, Goals: 13, Assists: 17, Points: 30
Tommy Duggan, what a season! The pocket dynamo, the guy could run the lights at the Ice Dome for the whole season with the energy he generated in one game. I will always remember Tambo remarking, during one podcast recording, 'That Tommy Duggan is a hazard to his own health'.......he is right tho! Tom worked hard every shift, competed for every puck, would take on any player on the opposition bench, and really make a nuisance of himself. Another payer who quickly became a fan favorite, not only for his on ice ability, but his office ability too! Highlight being, playing the national anthem on the ice before a game with his Fender Strat! Some Phoenix fans will also remember his guitar duties during the party in the Ice Dome bar after the title winning game! Tom really had a great season for the Phoenix, and I really hope he is one of the 6 players already signed up by the club. Im pretty confident he is staying, hell, at the end of season supporters do, he said he's staying pretty much! Ok so the words, im signed for next season, did slip his lips, but what he said was just as good as! The only worrying thing now is, if he continues to play as he is, it won't be long until the EIHL come's a knocking!
The Budgie Rating: 8/10.
Number 28 - Marcus Kristoffersson
Played: 54, Goals: 62, Assists: 50, Points: 112
Toffee, or Kristo's Beard according to one twitter user, the big Swede came to Manchester with a question mark hanging over him. After many injury prone years, would he be the top sniper the Phoenix had hoped for. Well....as you can see from the stats above, he did just that! Helped by the evergreen Sir Toe Knee Hand, Kristo quickly became one of the leagues hottest properties, backed up by his physical play Marcus had a monster of a slap shot. It would usually take a few goes during a game, but once his eye was in, he was lethal! Some opposition fans will bemoan his antics at times, but quite frankly, his antics were no worse than quite a few players in the EPL. In fact, I would go so far as to say, Marcus is quite tame by some standards. In the end though, he has the stats to wipe the floor with any criticism that is sent his way. Marcus and his family seemed to adapt to life in Manchester well, and it is rumored he is keen to stay but, if certain rumors are to be believed, the season just gone could be his one and only in the UK. I want Marcus to stay, but if he goes, I wish him well!
The Budgie Rating: Has to be a second 10/10 im afraid! Number two point scorer in the league to Tony Hand, can only be a 10!
Number 39 - Curtis Huppe
Played: 54, Goals: 59, Assists: 51, Points: 110
The 'other guy' in the Phoenix all conquering top line, Curtis came to the Phoenix with a certain point to prove. After some disappointing years with Coventry/Hull Curtis is a player who could still cut it in the EIHL. While never as flashy as Marcus, or as switched on as Tony, Curtis is a big tall guy who had a mean eye for the net. Coming in at number three in the leagues top point scorers, and with his own fan song to boot, Huppe had a great year with the Phoenix. Curtis was always the professional, always had time for the fans, and was always last to leave the ice during warm up. I would be delighted for Huppe to come back for season number 2 with the Phoenix. This seasons stats would not have gone unnoticed by the rest of the EPL/EIHL or even European clubs but, with a family back in Belfast I doubt he will go to Europe. After the season he has had, I really do not envy Tony with the decisions he has to make. Do you retain Huppe and keep that top line? Or is the budget there to sign a better import forward? Either way the fans will respect Huppe for what he has done for the Phoenix. All together now. Woooaaahh Curtis Curtis Huppe, Woooaaahh Curtis Curtis Huppe, Woooaaahh Curtis Curtis Huppe, Slapshot, Wristshot, Goal Goal Goal!
The Budgie Rating: The third of the triumvirate, the third 10/10 from The Budgie!
Number 64 - Andrew Sharp
Played: 28, Goals: 2, Assists: 1, Points: 3
A signing that polarized opinion across all hockey leagues/fans in the UK, many forming their opinions from memories from a few years ago and passing judgement before seeing the guy play for the Phoenix! As I can never remember Sharp's play during his time in the UK previously I approached his mid-season signing with an open mind and blank book...etc....! Signed as a tough guy to protect the Phoenix talent Andrew's mission was a simple one. He immediately added some mettle to the roster and injected new life into the squad, and quickly became a fan favorite. While he was more than willing to abide an opposition agitator, Sharpy could play! He had very good awareness on the ice, worked hard everyshift, and would position himself well on the ice to receive the puck. While many an opposition fan would question his use in the league, Sharpy had an effect by just being in the building. Many an agitator would remain quiet all game playing the Phoenix, see messers Wiggins and Grundmanis! Personally I think Sharpy contributed vastly to the Phoenix roster, and helped create some breathing room for the first line, by allowing the Phoenix to roll with three full lines, rather than the usual 2 and a half! A perfectly nice guy off the ice Sharpy would be welcomed back next season by the Phoenix faithful, if he returns or not depends on the Phoenix roster that shapes up over the summer.
The Budgie Rating: 7/10 for Sharp, could have been more but he only played half a season with the Phoenix.