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.
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!