The morning after the night before! The hockey season has well and truly begun! As is customary the Phoenix took on the Sheffield Steeldogs for the 'War of the Roses Cup' the now annual cross Pennine competition. This year would be different though, the Steeldogs have added a number of ex Phoenix players and have had a more extensive pre-season than the Phoenix. The team from Ice Sheffield had enjoyed games against Hull and the Steelers in addition to a hard training regime. The Phoenix had only been together a couple of days prior to leg one in Sheffield, so going into that game I would have been happy with a tied result or maybe a one or two goal deficit. Despite their head start I still thought the Phoenix would have enough quality over 6 periods to win.
So the usual crowd headed across to Sheffield to watch an entertaining game, filled with the usual physicality and controversy. After leaping to a 3-0 lead the Phoenix were able to fight back and took a 4-4 tie at the end of the first leg. This included an injury to Ciaran Long, and a bad slash to Harabin's arm. The incident with Long was the result of a knee from Gomeniuk which saw him assessed with a match penalty.
Sheffield 4 - 4 Phoenix - Phoenix View
Sheffield 4 - 4 Phoenix - Sheffield View
In the fading summer sun a bumper crowd packed out the Ice Dome sunday night ready to welcome the Phoenix onto home ice for the first time this season. Inside old acquaintances were renewed and old seats dusted off, everyone settled in for a cracking nights hockey.
First Period: With their extra on ice practice the Steeldogs started quickly and impressively, moving the puck quickly and giving the Phoenix a few defensive headaches! Ozonlins looking as good as before, Payette being his usual self and Morgan solid in defence. Greg Wood, captain of the Steeldogs, has seemingly morphed into a Payette Jnr unfortunately. Such a shame to see his talent wasted in such a way! The Phoenix looked ok to begin with, passes just missing to begin with and looked a little sloppy in defence, but as time went on both improved. Everyone forced to work hard, the new imports showing glimpses of their class. Bown's in goal was doing his usual one man wall impression, this season will, surely, be his last in the EPL! Fone was also in good form and both teams fought hard but were unable to score.
Second Period: The second continued where the first left off, except this time, the Phoenix were beginning to gel. The passes were sharper and the understanding on defence was getting there. After four minutes the duck was broken and it was the Phoenix who took the lead, after 24min 52sec. Koulikov, who could become my favourite player this season, took the puck up the right wing, turned in and riffled a lovely wrist shot past Ben Bowns and light the goal light. Sheffield called an immediate timeout, and Payette was seen absolutely laying into his Steeldogs players. Now I feel I must stand up for the Steeldogs players at this time. I can understand calling the time out as, the last 10mins of the first period and so far in the second it was clear the Phoenix were taking control. But that was no fault of the Steeldogs, it was just the Phoenix getting better and gelling! So I thought Payette's actions were a little un-called for! The Phoenix doubled their lead 4 minutes later when Faith got his first for the club, scoring at 28min 34sec. The newly bulked up Wallace was next on the scoresheet and gave the Phoenix a comfortable lead at 34min 55sec when he scored. Highlight move of the period which, didnt result in a goal actually, was Hand/Cingel and Faith breaking up ice 3 on 1 onyl to not score, who knows how! The buzzer sounded and capped an excellent period for the Phoenix, not only on the scoreboad, but Steeldogs heads were beginning to loose their cool, Payette and Wood in particular!
Third Period: This truly was an excellent period for the Phoenix, dominating the Steeldogs. At times it was both funny and embarrassing watching Payette loose the plot completely! Sadly for Foney the Steeldogs would break his shutout at score, after the third scrambled net attempt in the period. The Phoenix rode their luck one time too many and Sykes forced the puck through the bodies to reduce the deficit after 46min 22sec. Despite the score the Phoenix continued to dominate and it was no surprise when, with Bowns pulled, the Phoenix broke up ice and, after a few passes, Spelda was given the puck to score the empty netter at 58min 46sec. Capping a momentous day for him, news broke just before faceoff that he became a father for the first time!
Verdict: A great win, cracking atmosphere, the Dome was rocking once again! These games have been a perfect warm up for the league campaign. Early rust was long gone by the time Luke Boothroyd lifted the Roses Cup at the end. The team look to be gelling well, and after a week of training, should be read for the league campaign to begin. The new signing's look solid, and we really don't look to be missing Wood/Morgan and Gomeniuk. I know my good friend over at Banners on the Wall keeps saying that Koulikov is not import quality, but he doesn't have to be! He is a damn fine player in his own right. I think he could really be a star for the Phoenix! Spelda looks solid and intelligent in defence, a real quality partner for Harabin. Cingel looks to be re-establishing his long lost connection with Tony Hand, and Faith could well become one of the best forwards in the EPL. On the podcast Ben mentions his talk with Gomeniuk in the bar, where Pavel thinks the Phoenix have not replaced Kristoffersson. In my mind, we didnt have to! Anyone with a bit of quality on that topline could replace Kristoffersson. In Cingel/Faith I think we have a better first line than last year! There, ive said it!
Attendance: Swelled by a league championship there was a large crowd in the Ice Dome sunday night, i'll guess around 1,400. It sounded it certainly!
Phoenix 4 - 1 Sheffield - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 4 - 1 Sheffield - Sheffield Article
Phoenix 4 - 1 Sheffield - CB Sport