A rare midweek game for the Phoenix saw the visit of the Sheffield Steeldogs for another instalment of the cross Pennine battle. Andre Payette brought his Sheffield team to the Ice Dome riding high in the EPL table. He has forged a very tough team to beat, they work hard and grind out games, with their star player Janis Ozonlins getting much of the limelight. Of course any visit of the Steeldog's allows the Altrincham faithful to reacquaint themselves with messers Morgan/Geomeniuk/Wood and Payette! Always a pleasure!
Anyway Sheffield came into the game higher in the table and looking good to end their duck against the Phoenix in the EPL.
First Period: Off we go then, from the outset Sheffield brought their physicality and hard work to the ice, and the Phoenix struggled. While each team created chances the Phoenix were never able to set up in the Sheffield zone and put continued pressure on Ben Bowns in goal. Sheffield, on the other hand, were relying on their top line of Wood/Payette/Ozonlins to produce, as their most creative play came through them. As the period progressed and the Phoenix struggled the Steeldogs scored two quick goals to really take the initiative. The first came after 3 and a half minutes with Greg Wood returning to haunt the Phoenix. Less than a minute later, that man Ozonlins, popped up to extend their lead. Begrudgingly Sheffield deserved the lead so far.
Second Period: This period carried on where the first left off, with Sheffield continuing to frustrate the Phoenix, they had a plan and it was working. The Phoenix were able to haul themselves back into the game by scoring on a powerplay. I think the sun's must have aligned or something! Ladislav Harabin stepping up and scoring after 34min 27sec. A fight back on the cards? Sadly not, the mini-Payette Greg Wood struck again to restore Sheffield's two goal lead scoring at 35min 28sec. Sadly the hockey took a back seat in this period to the disgusting 'hit' by Payette on Luke Boothroyd. Im not going to rant on here, I said my piece below, on our forum and twitter and that's the last of it!
Third Period: With the scores at 3-1 and just twenty minutes left, I honestly didn't think the Phoenix had enough time to bring it back and, to be honest, I was still fuming after the events in the second. The period passed with the Phoenix tiring and the Steeldog's antics continuing. Only one goal came in the period, Ozonlins again scoring after 54min 25sec. As time ticket by it was clear Sheffield would finally get their win over the Phoenix at the 23rd time of asking.
Verdict: This was a poor performance from the Phoenix, we were outworked and looked tired and well off the pace. That's not to say Sheffield didn't play well, this defeat to Sheffield had been coming. Sheffield looked hungry and got their win....however! I can only say what I said on twitter after the game, Sheffield may have finally got their win against the Phoenix, but they deserve no praise/respect with the way they went about getting it. I have never seen a team play so dirty and dangerous in my time watching hockey. The clothes-line by Payette on Luke Boothroyd in the second period was disgusting and down right dangerous. He could seriously have inflicted major damage and it is by a sheer miracle that Luke's head was still screwed on. Greg Wood is fast becoming a mini Payette, which is a big shame, given he is a good player! That aside, the poor performance from the Phoenix and the lengthy injury list taking it's told, it's no surprise Sheffield managed, finally, to beat the Phoenix.
Attendance: Midweek games are always a tough sell, still, I would say around 1,000 fans came out for the game.
Phoenix 1 Sheffield 4 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 1 Sheffield 4 - Steeldogs Article
Phoenix 1 Sheffield 4 - CB Sport