The Angry Budgie Live

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Phoenix v Bracknell Bees 23rd October Game Review

Bracknell have come into this season pumped up, a new team, a new budget, and two of Guildford's most potent ever players. The Bees are a better team by far this year and can no longer be taken for granted. The major upgrade came in the form of Martin Masa and Lukas Smital who came to the Bees from the Flames. Two players who seem to go everywhere together, and two very good players. These two have the ability to win games on their own, they will help the Bees convert many more games into wins this year!

Saturday saw the Phoenix make the journey down the M6 and M5 to Swindon to take on another, much improved team. The Jet's took Bracknells dynamic duo Pinc and Cesky and hope they will do for them, what Masa/Smital will do for Bracknell! Despite taking the lead the Phoenix struggled in Swindon and lost the game 4-2. A disappointing result, even with their improvements the Phoenix still have enough skill to win!

Anyway, onto Sunday and the chance for the Phoenix to right those wrongs and avoid a weekend whitewash!

First Period: The Phoenix took to the ice without injured defenceman Jaroslav Spelda, in his absence his spot on the blue line has been filled by Ben Wood, slotting back into his usual D role. The home side got off to the best possible start when Juraj Faith continue his hot scoring streak netting after just 64seconds. The early delight of scoring would have the shine taken off a little when Bracknell leveled the scores on the 3 minute mark scoring through Thomson. With each side trying to settle down and into their rhythm as soon as possible the Phoenix continued to create the early chances. The Phoenix got the go ahead goal on 5min 52sec through Stephen Wallace who, like Faith, is enjoying a rich vein of form at the moment. The Phoenix second line has been our best performers over recent weeks, that fact underlined by another goal for that group. This time Koulikov got the goal after 16min 02sec, a shot from the far wing on goal, possibly deflecting in of a Bracknell player.

Second Period: Like the first period, the Phoenix got off to another flyer. Their fourth goal coming at 21min 43sec, and again it was Faith who scored early. This made the scores 4-1 and, in typical Phoenix style, this is where the team eased off! With the talent Bracknell have it should come as no surprise, dear reader, that they hauled themselves back into the game. Their second of the night came at 31min 06 on the powerplay through Peter Jasik. Then, just over 2 minutes later, the Bees were within a goal. Lukas Smital scored the Bees 3rd at 33min 17sec. This stirred the Phoenix back into life and the period finished 4-3 Phoenix.

Third Period: So a good first period, a sleepy second, what would happen in the third? Thankfully it looked like Tony's interval chat had an effect and the Phoenix came back out with purpose. They worked hard to contain the Bees and go in search of another goal. That goal would come, and to much delight, a reward for the hard working third line. Tom Duggan scoring the Phoenix 5th at 50min 33sec. With the scores 5-3 the Phoenix looked to close out the game and with the Bees tiring the game ended with a victory for the Phoenix.

Verdict: 40 minutes of good hockey out of 60 may be ok against teams like the Bees, but against the likes of the Jets/MK and Guildford that won't be enough. It was pleasing to see the overall performance tonight, the Phoenix had been in a little bit of a slump and this game showed the fight/desire is still there. I genuinely could not have picked a MOM there were a few candidates! The other main positive I can take out of the game was a reward, finally, for the third line. They work so hard every shift without, necessarily, getting any reward. Tom's goal will do them the world of good! What's also good to see is Faith's form continuing on an upward trend. Hopefully this will silence some of the doubters!

Attendance: Another solid crowd in the Dome, i'll say 1,200 in.

Phoenix 5 Bracknell 3 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 5 Bracknell 3 - Bracknell Article
Phoenix 5 Bracknell 3 - CB Sport

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Phoenix v Slough Jets 16th October Game Review

No saturday away game for the Phoenix last weekend so just the home game on sunday, this time the Jet's came to the Ice Dome for their first visit of the season. The only other meeting came on the opening weekend of the season when the Phoenix took a victory in the hangar down in Slough. Another tough game in store, especially as the Phoenix were icing without James Archer and Josh Ward, who sustained a broken jaw in the Panthers win in Hull saturday night!

First Period: Despite having a shorter bench the Phoenix began brightly and were able to close down the Slough offence well. After creating a number of chances the Phoenix finally go the breakthrough after 7min 27sec. Tom Duggan moved to the crease and began battle to screen Rockman in net, James Neil sensing an opportunity stepped off the blue line and sent a wrister on goal which found the net. Things got better for the Phoenix when Juraj Faith scored a powerplay goal after 11min 36sec, the Phoenix were looking good! But, as often happens when the Phoenix jump to an early lead, they eased off! This let Slough right back in the game, at 14min 25 Darius Pliskauskas got the first goal back for the Jets, and under a minute later the scores were tied. The goal coming at 15min 20sec. The buzzer went and the Phoenix faithful were a little shell shocked. A brilliant opening 12 minutes were undermined by the last 8!

Second Period: The second period saw no goals but both sides traded chances. with the play looking a little more even between the sides. Fone and Rockman in nets were being kept busy, but the sharpness in front of goal was just not there and neither team could make the breakthrough.

Third Period: Slough would score first in the third, with Pliskauskas stepping up to score at 43min 01sec. He is a real class import, and a fantastic find by the Raiders way back when! With the clock ticking on the Phoenix had to press for a goal and, ironically, it would come on the penalty kill. Koulikov getting a deserved goal at 45min 17sec. With the teams evenly matched and neither wanting to risk losing a point the game ended with no further goals and went into OT. Importantly the Phoenix did take a penalty with around 30sec left with Faith heading to the box.

Overtime: That penalty left the Phoenix with 3 skaters against Slough's 4. from the first puck drop the Jet's set up camp in the Phoenix zone and began moving the puck around. Dan Davies on the back post missed an absolute sitter, but as we were to find that was just a sighter! Just 50sec into overtime the Jet's moved the puck around quickly and Davies was again found on the back post clear, and this time he made no mistake! the Jet's winning 4-3 after OT.

Verdict: A tough loss to take, given the Phoenix began so brightly! But, as ive said in previous post's, if the Phoenix are to lose id prefer to take a point! That point keeps the Phoenix joint top of the league. A loss of focus and, possibly, the short bench caught up with the lads sunday night. With Spelda having surgery on his ankle, the Phoenix head into this weekends games with 3 players possibly sitting out. I can only hope James Archer is back fit, otherwise it could be a tough weekend! A final note, Ryan Watt, I know his type of role is an agitator, but he was a disgrace in that game. Then to add further insult he was given the MOM. there were boo's from the Phoenix faithful but I cannot condone what Watt did. While skating over to accept his MOM he proceeded to mock the home crowd, the only purpose of which was to incite the home crowd. A real shame!

Attendance: A good crowd for a saturday night game, i'll guess between 1-1,100 in the Ice Dome

Phoenix 3 Sough 4 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 3 Slough 4 - Slough Article
Phoenix 3 Slough 4 - CB Sport

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The New Season is Upon us! Version 2.2.2011

A bit late but here we go with the second part of my roster review, you have seen the defencive line already in version 2.1.2011 here I present the forward line that will be tasked with firing the Phoenix to more silverware success.

The Forwards

Number 2 James Archer

James came to the Phoenix and iced most of the year on the second line, he added some bulk and strength to that line and would often be found doing the dirty work. He is a tough cookie and enjoyed a pretty good season for the Phoenix, collecting 44 points and really contributing the strength in depth that helped the Phoenix lift the EPL trophy. Over the summer Archer's name was on many re-sign list's, mine included. He is one of the top Brit's in the league and is a player you need to hold on to. There was much delight when his signature was announced, and his status has been confirmed with Tony Hand handing the A to James for this season. A worthy recipient in my eyes, James will stick up for his teammates and is not afraid to mix it if needed!

Number 9 Tony Hand

What on earth do I say here? After the Phoenix debut EPL season, when Tony scored 120 points, few could imagine how he could top it. During 2010/11 he only went and did it! 133 points and a league title! Plus, in only 2 league games (so far this season at the time of writing) he already has 6 points! The staggering fact's are, that over the first two season in the EPL Tony Hand has only scored 50 goals, compared to a massive 203 assists! Never has the song 'He shot, he missed he wanted an assist Tony Hand, Tony Hand' been so appropriate! The man is a living legend of UK hockey who only seems to be getting better with age. He continues to frustrate and amaze the Phoenix faithful, not to mention opposition fan's, and along with Steve Moria at the Bison he continues to prove that age is no barrier in hockey! It must be said, over the summer there were many 'Hand to Fife' rumours, despite my insistence that he already had a contract for the Phoenix, many dismissed that and said he was gone. Imagine my delight and the size of my grin when it was announced a new contract for Tony keeping him at the Phoenix until at least 2015! Long may the legend stay!

Number 14 Stephen Wallace

Still my favorite player at the Phoenix, Wallace had his second best year during the Phoenix title run amassing 50 points, very nearly a point a game. Wallace plays the game with skill and flair and will often magic the puck out of a tight spot or past opposing defensemen. The only aspect of his game which needed work was his physicality. While an excellent stick handler, Stephen could be muscled off the puck, after the two games iv'e seen of him so far this season, he has been working very hard on that side of his game over the summer! Along with James Archer, Wally was next on my list of players to re-sign!

Number 19 Tom Duggan

Duggy, the young Brit who plays the game hard! Duggan has been an instant hit at the Phoenix, playing the game with absolute commitment and often, without a regard for his own safety! Tom plays a vital role on the Phoenix third line, and helps give the Phoenix that extra strength in depth. Tom brings so much to the ice and one quality I think that goes un-noticed is his ability to hound and rush an opponent into a mistake. Tom will be the guy who fore-check's up the ice, he is usually the first player an opposing rushing player will encounter as they push forward. He has a great hockey mind and knows his place on the ice. A fan favorite, and a player respected by his teammates!

Number 29 Martin Cingel

This was one of the bigger signings of the summer, and one which much intrigue! Cingel and Hand would be re-united once more in the EPL, there was a fair bit of shock up in Edinburgh when Cingel left and many questioning why. For me, this was a no brainer win win for the Phoenix. Cingel brings a wealth of experience to the ice, and his quality is proven. Let's face it, if you can score at nearly a point per game in the EIHL on a weak Edinburgh roster, imagine what he can do in the EPL on a line with Tony Hand! Early signs are good, two games down and 6 points already for the Slovakian. While he may not be as in-your-face as Kristoffersson, he is still a sniper and a strong player who wont get bullied from the puck. With the relationship with Hand restored, he is a player who I hope will ice for the Phoenix for a few seasons to come!

Number 71 Josh Ward

Another of the Nottingham youth system to come and ice for the Phoenix. Following in the footsteps of Robert Lachowicz and James Neil, Josh comes to the Phoenix for a full season of hockey. If Robert and James' quality is anything to go by, Josh should be another gem. I will admit to knowing little about Josh, but from the first two games so far, I am impressed. He works hard, is comfortable on the puck and seems to have slotted into the Phoenix locker room well. Certainly if his tweet's are anything to go by! Josh began his season early, along with Ciaran Long, by icing a couple of times for the Trafford Metros in the ENL. Those games being quite rewarding for Josh, scoring two goals and three assists. If he has a good season I hope he stays, but I could see the Panther's come a calling!

Number 74 Slava Koulikov

Is he import quality or not? That seems to have been the main debating point since Slava's signing was announced! Since the Phoenix arrival into the EPL Slava has always been a player I liked to watch. He reminds me of Stephen Wallce, has has great skill and stick handling ability, and despite not being an import, I will always consider him a 'bonus import'. Good engough to play on any EPL squad I was so happy when his arrival at the Phoenix was announced. He really has helped to up-grade the Phoenix second line. With Archer and Wallace, the second line is a real big threat now. In fact it feels like that line has been leading the Phoenix so far this season! Welcome to Manchester Slava, or Danny as some Phoenix players seem to have dubbed him!?!?!

Number 89 Ciaran Long

Signed from the Basingstoke Bison Ciaran will add some physicality to the Phoenix third line, don't worry Mr Russell unlike previous years, the Phoenix are consistently rolling with three lines! As with Josh Ward, Ciaran began his season with the Trafford Metros and in impressive style! Five goals and two assists in just two games, sadly he picked up an injury in the first game away to the Steeldogs and has not yet iced in this EPL season. Fingers crossed he will be back into the lineup for this weekends games.

Number 91 Juraj Faith

Youreye Faieeth or something like that! Like Ladislav Spelda, Faith is an unknown quantity this year, with over 400 games in the top Slovak league and a season in the DEL Juraj has the experience, and his season by season production shows he has the skill. In reality he will have a good year, just by being on the same line as Tony Hand he will score goals. Common opinion of the Phoenix faithful is that, Faith has yet to really get going. At the moment he looks to be shaking off a little rust, but early indications are encouraging. Id' want my imports to be scoring at least a point per game, ideally towards two points per game would be ideal. So 3 points from 2 games is a good start, hopefully once he is fully settled and up to speed in the EPL we will see that point production head north!

Them's be the forwards, while no one has yet stood out, this years Phoenix looks to be much stronger across the roster. It certainly gives me some confidence going into the EPL season ahead!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

The New Season is Upon us! Version 2.1.2011

Following on from my new season post last year, version1.2010 may I present version 2.2011 Championship Edition! This summer has been one to enjoy if you were a Phoenix fan. Despite the blip experienced in Coventry the Phoenix ended the 2010/11 season as EPL champions. A league championship that has been a long time coming to Manchester. I believe the last league championship was brought to the city by the Manchester Storm in 1999. So it's only taken 12 years, one bankruptcy, two mothballed seasons but we have a new shiny league trophy to show for it!

Coventry weekend was a little bittersweet for many a Phoenix fan, the elation and pride that came with winning a league title was dampened somewhat by the team not quite showing up 100% in the game against MKL. Credit to MKL though, they had a game plan, stuck to it and shut the Phoenix potent offence down. Still, we had a right royal time in the Phoenix blocks. Largest fan base there, a whole end of the SkyDome filled and one massive banner to show off, good times! There was even the seeds of an unholy alliance formed with the Guildford fans next door! I was disappointed to loos to MKL but, I had a great time in Coventry, finally managed to meet up with Anthony (off of Banners on the Wall fame) and form a new hockey friendship!

So the league finished, Coventry happened and everyone left the midlands and went there separate ways for the summer. Holiday's were had, forums went into their scheduled rumor overdrive and now, well into September, hockey gear is being dusted off and rituals prepared.

Oh it's hockey time alright!

After the normal roster explosion the summer is spent rebuilding that which went before. This summer for Tony was even tougher, how do you improve a championship roster with the same budget as last year? With difficulty, Kristoffersson/Huppe departed for pastures new, Gomeniuk/Morgan and G Wood departed for their spiritual home in Sheffield and Adam Summerfield departed for a career with the RAF. The Phoenix did manage to retain a core group of players and have brought in some quality experienced new faces. With the roster finalised im going to split the squad preview in two, today we have the Goaltending and Defence, then the forwards will follow!

The Goaltending

Number 31 Stephen Fone
BT returns for his third year between the pipes for the Manchester Phoenix, last season he backstopped the club to the EPL title. I always thought if BT had an injury free year he could be immense for the Phoenix. Thankfully 2010/11 proved to be that year, not the most conventional of goalkeepers Steve Fone continued his improvement. He is a quick goalie round the crease and is flexible enough to pull out some show reel saves. His stats alone show how far he has come, over the two full seasons he has had in Altrincham his GAA has come down from 3.67 to 2.75 and his save % increased from .882 to .906. Granted the defence/team in front improved but he has also. Going with an import net minder carries to many negatives for me, so a brit between the pipes is a must. A quality Brit goalie is hard to find, so I am very happy BT is back for another year.

Number 35 Jorge El-Hage
A product of the Phoenix youth setup Jorge fills the void created by Adam Summerfield's departure to the RAF. Many thanks must be given to Summerfield, he had reached a point in his development where he had to be making regular starts, rather than warming the bench. This was unlikely at the Phoenix, that in addition to his career calling, meant he had to leave. Im right in saying all Phoenix fan's wish him the best! So Jorge comes in to fill the back up position, i'll admit here and now, I know nothing about him! However, if Tony has enough faith to promote him and have him as backup he must be good! He will learn alot training with the EPL side and learning from BT, it will be interesting to see if he is trusted with minutes this season!

The Defence

Number 4 Luke Boothroyd
Another season back for Luke Boothroyd, another season carrying the captaincy I would have thought! Luke is Mr Dependable, Mr Manchester, you could argue he is one of the first names on the match sheet every time. His point production dropped last season and he didn't register a goal. Now I want my defencemen to be just that...defencemen first and foremost, so I wouldn't expect Luke to be lighting up the scoring charts. But I would like him to offer up some more points next season. That is probably the only area of his game he needs to improve, he is a good captain, he is a brilliant defenceman. He reads the play well, can deliver a great check and despite his size, is one tough cookie!

Number 10 Ryan Johnson
This was a surprising signing for some, Ryan Johnson is no stranger to the Phoenix. I do wonder if, sticking to the same budget, has brought about Ryan's arrival to the Phoenix. But I am not going to complain, Ryan is a big strong fellow who isn't afraid to get rough. Last season he split his time between the Steeldogs and Steelers and managed a 20 point haul from his 54 games. A decent return for a second/third line defenceman. He will add size to the Phoenix blue line, while not the tallest, anyone who has seen him up close will agree, he is built like the proverbial! Another aspect to his game, Ryan can play forward which, like the next two players in this list could give the Phoenix a fourth forward line! Though pig's may fly before the Phoenix run with 4 lines! Another plus side will be the continuation of the 'Ryan Johnson plays for Phoenix, he has a porno tash' ditty!

Number 12 - James Neil
The second in the Phoenix triumvirate of utility players, James Neil has worked his way backwards onto the Phoenix blue line after beginning his career in Altrincham as a center. James is a quick player who has adapted to life on the blue line well. For me, James is a little small and needs to bulk up, but otherwise, like Luke Boothroyd, James is another guy who is becoming a fixture at the Phoenix. For 2011/12 i'd like to see James up his point production please!

Number 15 - Ben Wood
The big man from Macclesfield returns for his fourth year on the Phoenix blue li....err wait! Ben Wood practically invented the utility role at the Phoenix. Played as a forward early on, Ben is most comfortable on defence. He had another frustrating season last year, and it all comes down to Tony's trust in him. In my opinion Ben has the skill to be played, he makes mistakes on the odd occasion, but so do all players. In fact when he had a good run of ice time his play improved considerably. My hope for this new season is, Tony has faith and plays the guy! He is good enough!

Number 44 Ladislav Harabin
Defenceman of the year for many, Harabin played a blinder during his debut EPL season. Part man, part machine, the guy just wouldn't be held down. Most fans across the league will remember his horrible injury sustained one faitful night in Slough, us Phoenix fans will remember reports of his determination to carry on playing in that game, then his hard work to get back on the ice as soon as possible. After the 2010/11 season, a career year for Ladislav, most of the Phoenix faithful were resigned to loosing him. But he surprised us all be re-signing for the Phoenix. Possibly the signing of the summer! Good friend Gomeniuk gone, Harabin will look to his fellow import D man, Spelda, to shoulder much of the Phoenix D responsibility. With a full, healthy, season I see Harabin having another career year and becoming a Phoenix icon!

Number 26 Jaroslav Spelda
The un-known quantity on this seasons defensive corps is the 36 year old from the Czech Republic. Standing at 6ft Spelda is slightly bigger than Harabin and with over 530 games in the top leagues in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, Jaroslav has the pedigree to be just as good as the Phoenix number 44. I can't comment much more on Jaroslav until iv'e seen him on the ice, but safe to say, im excited!

Who wants to look at some forwards?

Monday, 10 October 2011

Phoenix v Peterborough Phantoms 8th September Game Review

With the Phoenix playing Telford in Shropshire on sunday, the usual home game of the weekend was bumped forward to saturday. I know it's not a major thing, but it does feel weird going to hockey on a saturday in Altrincham. Usually ends up with a confusing Sunday! Anyway, the first saturday home game of the season saw the visit of the struggling Phantoms. Im sure you will be aware but, just before the season began the Phantoms lost two players, one to the Steelers, and the other to a season long injury. That hurts teams at the best of times, but right before the first puck drop? That's devastating! The Phantoms have struggled so far this season, but Wall in net gives the Phantoms a chance, and it would be typical that the Phantoms get their A game together for the first time against the Phoenix!

The faithful filled the Ice Dome and, competing with Saturday night telly, we go under way!

First Period: It's not often the home team bench is more crowded than the away bench! Saturday night was one of those few times, the Phantoms starting the game with 11 skaters and two goalies. The Phoenix began brightly and controlled much of the play and chances. As usual, however, they came up against a superb Stephen Wall. Who must be, along with Ben Bowns, one of the top two or three goalies in the EPL. The Phoenix were playing ok, but not into gear fully, and Peterborough found a way to disrupt the Phoenix and not allow them too many clear chances on goal. The Phantoms cause was not helped when Glowa was ejected from the game with a 5 plus game for accidental highsticks on Slava Koulikov. 'Accidental High Sticks' has to be one of the silliest calls in hockey! An accidental penalty gets you thrown out the game, when deliberate attempts to injure (such as roughing, checking to the head etc...) will often only yield a minor penalty. Anyway, that's an argument for another day! The period ended with frustration in the Phoenix rank's and a wonder if this was going to be the Phoenix day!

Second Period: The second period began in the same vein as the first, the Phoenix with much of the play and Peterborough continuing to frustrate with their small bench. The Phoenix goal machine did finally get into gear and Martin Cingel got them off the mark after 22min 13sec. With Peterborough rolling just two lines the Phoenix pressed hard but could not find their way through, some shouts of frustrating beginning to be heard from the stands. Nerves were eased a little when Harabin got a deserving goal at 33min 52sec. As an aside, Harabin really has stepped up his game this season, he brings quite a bit of offensive skill to the ice along with his physicality in defence.

Third Period: With the short bench beginning to tell the Phantoms were dealt another blow when Rick Skene laid down and took a Spelda wrist shot to the helmet. All play stopped and both team doctors attended to Skene on the ice. Thankfully Skene took to his feet and was able to skate from the ice, with a fair bit of blood pouring from his head. Thankfully his helmet did its job and he should be ok! The Phoenix train really began to get going and they made it 3-0 when Faith scored after 50min 15sec. The referee had been doing his best to help Peterborough, I lost count the number of powerplays they had! It was on one of these powerplays when Faith was found up ice, skated in on Wall and fired an excellent shot past him into the net, timed 55min 44sec. With the Phantoms all but finished Spelda would add one final goal to make the scores a more realistic 5-0 at 58min 44sec.

Verdict: The Phoenix have yet to hit top gear and really gel as a team. Having said that they are still finding ways to pick up the points. This was not the prettiest of games or performances, but it was a good win in the end. Fone picking up a deserved shut out as well. Peterborough, while short benched, did not disgrace themselves, they worked hard and, unless you looked at the bench, you wouldn't have known they were so short of players.

Attendance: Slightly down, as saturday games usually are! I would guess at between 1 to 1,100 in the Ice Dome

Phoenix 5 Peterborough 0 - Phoenix Article

After the home win, it was Telford away for the Phoenix on sunday. Never an easy team to go and play. The game was tight for the most part with the score held at 1-1 all the way through open play. Then it was down to the lottery of penalties, this time, and after numerous attempts, Telford beat the Phoenix. While disappointed at loosing, it is still early season and the Phoenix are still getting better. So I will take 3 points from a weekend if offered! It's picking up as many points from a loss that can be key to winning trophies!

Telford 2 Phoenix 1 APS - Phoenix Article
Telford 2 Phoenix 1 APS - Telford Article
Telford 2 Phoenix 1 APS - CB Sport

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Phoenix v Swindon Wildcats 2nd October Game Review

Another weekend gone, another pair of games in the relentless EPL season ticked off! The Phoenix went into the weekend joint top with the Sheffield Steeldog's, who's start to the season is surprising alot of people! After the War of the Roses clashes I can see the Steeldog's doing well this year! They won't challenge for the title, but they will give every team a hard time in Sheffield! The Phoenix had a tough away game to Milton Keynes saturday night before entertaining the Swindon Wildcats sunday in Altrincham. Sadly the Phoenix struggled in MK loosing 5-2, still no shame in loosing to the Lightning in MK, they are a damn good side!

Sunday saw the Wildcats and their fans make the journey north up the M5 and M6 to Altrincham, Swindon are a much improved side, retaining Jonas Hoog was a coup for Aldridge and now, with the ex-Bracknell pair of Cesky and Pinc, and ex Jets coach Peter Russel on board the Wildcats are no pushovers!

First Period: After reports of the Phoenix being outmuscled in MK the Phoenix had to stamp their authority on the game. They did so and were able to restrict Swindon to a handful of early chances. Meanwhile Murdy in the Cats goal was 'doing a Bowns' turning away the Phoenix numerous attempts on goal. At times when the Phoenix got past Murdy Swindon were saved by the pipework. One particular chance fell to Faith who lasered a wrister high past Murdy only for the puck to hit the underside of the cross bar, bounce down, then out of the blue paint. The boisterous crowd in the Dome so close to celebrating a goal, and yet by the end of the first 20mins, none showed where it counts, on the scoreboard.

Second Period: Continued much like the first, with the Phoenix dominating the play and the few chances falling to the Wildcats being dealt with by Steve Fone, who was on another blinder of a performance! The Phoenix would break the deadlock in the second period when, Harabin went on one of his mazy forays up ice to combine with Mr Hand to find Martin Cingel on the back post, and with an authoritative whack, sent the Phoenix into the lead. That goal coming after 22min 57sec. The Phoenix doubled their lead on the powerplay just over two minutes later. The Phoenix moved the puck around the Swindon zone creating plenty of traffic in front of Murdy, as the puck cycled to Spelda on the blue line he unleashed a boomer of a slapshot which flew into the net. What a shot! One for the highlight reel certainly! The Phoenix made it 3-0 when Cingel got his second of the game at 28min 18sec on the powerplay. Swindon were struggling but they made sure the Phoenix were not going into the final period in a comfortable position. They broke Fone's shutout at 38min 40sec when Richardson scored their first of the game.

Third Period: Swindon really ramped up the pressure and tension in the third period when they scored 3 minutes into the period when Jan Melichar scored their second, to make the scores 3-2 Phoenix. The third period continued with both sides creating chances, the Phoenix still with the better of the play. Steve Fone outstanding in goal to keep the Cats out. Swindon called a timeout in the remaining few minutes and pulled Murdy for the last 60sec. The Phoenix were able to keep a high forecheck which limited Swindon's time in the Phoenix zone, and with less than 10sec left the puck broke to Spelda who sent the puck up ice, only to miss the goal by a fraction. Confusion follows as the buzzer sounds, and everyone prepares to leave. Only for 3 seconds to be put back on the clock as the puck was iced. Cue massive anti-climax as the puck was dropped and the 3 seconds wasted.

Verdict: So no 4 point weekend, but a home win secured for the Phoenix against an improved Swindon Wildcats. The Phoenix performances are slowly improving and the imports are beginning to find their feet. Harabin and Fone have continued their great start to the season, and Faith is gaining confidence in this league. Spelda, has truly announced his arrival with his booming slapshot! I was very happy with how the Phoenix managed to dominate the Cats for the majority of the game. Swindon, while they have improved, look to rely on their first line too much. I think most EPL sides will find them a tougher nut to crack, but if you shut that top line down, their is little else Swindon can hurt you with, famous last words eh?

Attendance: A decent crowd in the Dome, maybe a little less than against Basingstoke the week before, so i'll guess at around 1,100 in the Dome!

Phoenix 3 Swindon 2 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 3 Swindon 2 - CB Sport
Phoenix 3 Swindon 2 - Swindon Article