The Angry Budgie Live

Friday, 23 December 2011

Phoenix v Milton Keynes Lightning 18th December Game Review

MK visited the Ice Dome sunday night for another installment of their rivalry with the Phoenix. So far, since the arrival into the EPL the Phoenix/MK battles have always been a highlight for me. Two teams who like to play hockey, and are a joy to watch. Plus the MK faithful always travel in numbers and make plenty of noise. Last sunday was no exception! Prior to sundays action the Phoenix traveled south to Slough and the result.....well.....less said about that the better!

Anyway onto the MK game:

First Period: I will admit, going into this game I was not expecting much for the Phoenix, I expected us to come out of the game empty handed! How wrong could I have been? The spanking down in Slough looked like it hurt the Phoenix, and they came out fighting against MK. The game started fast, it started physical, some bi hits being handed out. The likes of Harabin, Spelda, Wood and Long meeting out some great hits. It would be the Phoenix third line that got the first goal. A real beaut it was too! Hard work from Duggan down the left wing created a 2 on 1 with Ciaran Long, Tom found Ciaran and Ciaran scored the first goal of the game. The joy in the celebration was matched by the joy in the stands. A real reward for those two who work hard on each and every shift. That first goal coming at 7min 36sec. The Phoenix continued to press and another goal followed, Martin Cingel getting in on the act scoring at 11min 55sec. The period continued much the same with both teams battling and the fans in the stands creating a memorable atmosphere! The period ended 2-0 Phoenix, but the dreaded second period was up next!

Second Period: After the Phoenix edged the first, much to MK's surprise, MK upped their game in the second and it proved to be an even contest. The same hard flowing hockey continued and it really was great to watch. Each and every fan getting their moneys worth! Only one goal came in the period and it came to MK, Jamieson scoring at 26min 06sec.

Third Period: With just one goal in it the Phoenix had to expect MK to come hard in the final session. They did and on the PP were able to tie the game. An excellent PP with MK moving the puck around quickly and that man, Jamieson again, popped up to score the game tying goal, at 46min 07sec. Despite being pegged back, the Phoenix showed no signs of caving in, regrouped and began to re-assert their stamp on the game. Going into the last 10minutes the Phoenix would seal the game. Martin Cingel scoring his second of the night at 52min 19sec then his hattrick goal following at 57min 41sec. This one a real killer, as Cingel threw the puck on net from the red line, and found the smallest game between Mettam's pads and the post. Cue delirium in the stands.

Verdict: Having lost the previous 3 homes games and an absolute spanking in Slough the night before the mood in the Ice Dome was tense. But the fans rose to the occasion and created an awesome atmosphere. The MK faithful did their bit and contributed to a fantastic nights entertainment, and the teams rose to it too. Phoenix/MK is a battle that cannot be missed. The Phoenix put in a performance we knew they could do, but for some reason couldn't so far this season. The 9-0 in Slough the catalyst for an awesome response sunday night. The Phoenix played fast, skillful and hard, they put in lots of hits and harassed the MK players all game. As a result they could own the ice. This was a big game for the Phoenix and the fans, and neither disappointed!

Attendance: Great crowd, great noise, with the extra away fans in, ill guess at 1,200 in the Ice Dome.

Phoenix 4 MK 2 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 4 MK 2 - CB Sport

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Phoenix v Guildford Flames 11th December Game Review

The Flames came to the ice dome saturday night and in doing so, brought back Phoenix favourites Curtis Huppe and Andrew Sharp to Altrincham. Going into the game the Phoenix form suggested this would be a walkover for Guildford although, having said that, the Phoenix usually play better on a saturday now! Even so, with the Phoenix hit by injuries, although boosted by three Metro's ENL players joining the bench, the Phoenix would still be understaffed against a strong Flames roster. How the Phoenix would love to have the luxury of 'extra' players sitting around to bring in! Anyway, games against the Flames have always been fun, as they are a team, like the Phoenix, who like to play hockey.

First Period: The first period started and continued with some great end to end hockey, both sides working hard but Guildford did edge the opening exchanges. Enjoying the greater of the possession the Flames began to increase the pressure on the Phoenix, and their slick style began to open up holes in the Phoenix defence. So it was no surprise that the Flames took the lead, Branislav Kvetan opening the scoring at 10min 09sec. Nathan Rempel doubled their lead less than four minutes later at 13min 42sec. Even at this early stage it looked like lights out for the Phoenix. But, count them out at your peril, current Phoenix hero Tom Duggan finally got the Phoenix on the board when his perseverance was rewarded with a goal, coming at 17min 23sec.

Second Period: The second started in the worst possible way when the Flames, on the power play, extended their lead. The usual PP format so far was, the Phoenix being unable to set up in the Flames zone when enjoying the man advantage, and the Flames set up and camped in the Phoenix zone. The goal, brilliantly worked, came from ex Phoenix sniper Curtis Huppe. Scoring just 23sec into the period. At 2min 53sec Rick Plant extended Guildford's lead to 4-1, a massive mountain for the Phoenix to climb to get anything from this game. Astonishingly the Phoenix powerplay worked and the deficit was cut by one goal as Cingel scored at 12min 40sec. Despite the scoreline so far, the Phoenix had maintained their effort during this game, which marked a nice change from recent home games.

Third Period: This got interesting in the third period, as Guildford had done in the second, the Phoenix scored a quick goal to make it tense. Ciaran Long, like Tom Duggan, getting a reward for his tireless performances scoring 47sec into the final session. The large crowd in the dome picked up and the atmosphere really got rocking. Iv'e never been to the Spectrum but, by most accounts it's a library, so I urge the Guildford fans who were in attendance, that is what an atmosphere should be! Bouncing! The Phoenix continued to press and, astonishingly, began to dominate the Flames. Yes, you read that right, the Phoenix, with their depleted resources and sketchy home form, were bossing the Flames. They pressed and pressed and, going into the final minute, pulled Fone for the extra attacker. The Flames were able to police their own zone and managed to break Phoenix hearts with an empty net goal from Jez Lundin at 19min 40sec.

Verdict: The dire expectations before the puck drop proved to be unfounded. This was a good performance from the Phoenix, much more heart and effort shown and a battling performance against a very good Flames team. Taking my Phoenix spec's off I do believe the Phoenix deserved something from the game. Maybe not the win, but a point at least. But myself, and many others, left the Ice Dome buoyed by the improved performance on the ice. Now the Flames, they look the part this year, best performance by a visiting team so far in Altrincham. With the team they have, they should win this league. Where it may fall down for them is their goaltending, Lee is not quite the best in the EPL and could prove to be the only (slight) weak link.

Attendance: Some more newbies in for the game, and they were treated to something special. I'd say around 1,200 in the Ice Dome.

Phoenix 3 Guildford 5 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 3 Guildford 5 - CB Sport
Phoenix 3 Guildford 5 - Guildford Article

The Phoenix played away sunday over in Peterborough, a tough place to get a result, but the Phantoms are now without Stephen Wall. A big factor in their ability to get results. That said, the Phoenix are inconsistent at the moment and lacking numbers. Thankfully the Phoenix avoided a null point weekend and got the win and a valuable two points. Even more pleasingly, as I have mentioned before there has been alot of recent negativity directed towards Juraj Faith, alot of it unwarranted in my eyes. One poster on the Phoenix forum even going so far as to suggest we fire him and fill his roster place with a metros player. Imagine my wry smile when Faith picked up two goals and the MOM from the Phantoms game sunday night. Where's your smart comments now, hey?

Friday, 9 December 2011

Phoenix v Basingstoke Bison 4th December Game Review

LinkThe past weekend saw the Phoenix take on the Bees in Bracknell and the Basingstoke Bison in the Altrincham Ice Dome. Games against the Bees are no easy task nowerdays, after they poached the dangerous duo of Masa and Smital. That being said if you are able to deal with those two, you just have to contend with their physical play. Thankfully the Phoenix did the job and emerged with a credible 6-2 victory. The game will be remembers for Luke 'The Killer' Boothroyd handing it out to Scott Spearing and has instantly become a Phoenix hero!

Onto sunday and the not so insignificant prospect of the Basingstoke Bison, a team the Phoenix moved to the EPL with and one who the Phoenix enjoy many a good game. So far this season each side has been unable to beat the other in their own rink, weird!! The last meeting between the sides came in Bisonland and the Phoenix left the Basingstoke arena with the win. Back at the Dome you would hope for a home win, but history in this series, and the Phoenix current rollercoaster form spoke otherwise!

First Period: With recent games in mind the Phoenix faithful began the game with a certain edge or nervousness, that quickly disappeared as the Phoenix came out the blocks fighting. This was a physical performance from the Phoenix, they came out and worked hard, hit hard, and really dominated the opening stages. It would be no surprises then, that the Phoenix got on the board first, when Koulikov out the first goal on the board for the Phoenix at 3min 18sec, continuing his current hot streak. The Phoenix doubled their lead just after the ninth minute when Martin Cingel got on the scoresheet scoring from the back post off an excellent centering pass by Koulikov. Two goals up and, sadly, the Phoenix looked like they eased off and began to let the Bison back into the game. Kubenko who, had been quiet in the game so far, really came on in the latter half of the first period. He is big, very skillful and a dangerous player. He scored the Bison's first goal at 12.26 to make the scores 2-1.

Second Period: The second period would prove to be a killer, the Phoenix began to tire and commit some pretty bad mistakes in the defensive zone and leaving Fone out to dry. A 45 second spell at the halfway period of the game did it for the Phoenix. First Kubenko stepped up once again to score at 29min 17sec to tie the game. Then the killer, go ahead goal came from Joe Miller. Advancing down the far wing he moved past the Phoenix defence with ease, dragged the puck into the middle, waited for Fone to commit and slotted the puck easily into the open net. A real gutting goal and one that took the wind right out Phoenix sails.

Third Period: Damage limitation or a fight back? Despite loosing the lead the Phoenix tried to dig deep and get something from the game. They worked hard, but missing Hand/Wallace and other players not being 100% really began to show and the Phoenix tired. Within the first two minutes, however, the Ice Dome would see, possibly, the goal of the season. Its one worth checking out Phoenix TV from the 6th December just to watch it over and over again! Ladislav Harabin had the puck behind the Phoenix net, only to set off up the ice and deak/stick handle his way through the entire Bison line, while being slashed/tripped to slot the puck into the top right shelf while on his knees! A real show reel goal, and one that showcases his skill and strength! The home side on a high? Sadly the Bison would hit back and score, what would be the game winning goal, through Nicky Chinn at 46min 10sec. One goal down, going into the final minute, the Phoenix call a timeout and pull Steve Fone. The Bison also pick up a penalty so the Phoenix go 6 on 4, the 30sec with the advantage were spent in centre ice or the Phoenix zone as they never got set up. So a disappointing 4-3 loss in the end!

Verdict: Quite where and when this win/loss form will end for the Phoenix is anyone's guess. But with Wallace out till the new year and Hand unknown as to when he will return. The Phoenix injury crisis does not look like its going to end soon! The game was another frustrating one, a good first period, bad second, and a fighting/tired third period from the Phoenix against a Bison side they know they can beat. The Bison were good, not great, but played a good road game in frustrating the Phoenix. The most worrying aspect from the night for me, we had 500 newbies in the Ice Dome, who witnessed a bad loss, like the Slough game these home losses will start to hurt, As I've tweeted for a while, I would absolutely trade this good away wins for home wins right now!

Attendance: Boosted by the 500 newbies in the Ice Dome there must have been a crowd of 1,100 to 1,200 in the Ice Dome.

Phoenix 3 Basingstoke 4 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 3 Basingstoke 4 - Bison Article
Phoenix 3 Basingstoke 4 - CB Sport

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Desert Dogs-a-Howlin' - November

October is done and in the can, November will prove to be a tough month for the Coyotes. 13 games and a killer five game road trip in the middle visiting both the west and east coasts of America!

@ Avalanche, The Coyotes opened November with a trip to Colorado and the Mile High city to take on the Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche came into the game with a good record, 7 wins going into the game and the Yotes came in on the back of a two game winning streak. It would be a tough game for the team from the desert and needed some big performances. The Coyotes got them, once again Mike Smith came up big in the game turning away 39 of 40 shots to give the Yotes dependable goaltending. Of the skaters Radim Vrbata had a two goal game including one spectacular goal as he was taken down from behind. While the Coyotes advanced to a third win in a row, they condemned the Avalanche to their fourth defeat in five on home ice. The team famed for its sell out streak is struggling! The Coyotes....are starting to warm up!

v Predators, Nashville, a difficult place to play a game and, with Rinne fresh from signing a seven year $49mil contract extension the Coyotes had to get past a goalie who would be in the form of his life and happier than larry! Unfortunately for the Dog's luck was just not on their side in Nashville, LeBarbara started in place of the red hot Mike Smith and was done by two pieces of bad luck, nothing to do with him! The first was the go ahead goal for the Predators which went through traffic and the legs of a Nashville player before sneaking past LeBarbaba. The second was a turnover from Korpikoski which gave the Predators a 2 on 0. In the end, the birthday boy millionaire was in such good form the Coyotes were unable to breakthrough and left Nashville with null points!

v Oilers, After the loss in Nashville the Coyotes returned home to take on the hot Edmonton Oilers who went into the game on the back of a six game winning streak. A scoreless first period gave way to a two goal second period which would give the Coyotes the edge. Daymond Langkow and Adrian Aucoin scored goals and the Coyotes defence strangled the Oilers offence to send the Yotes on the way to a 4-2 victory. Further goals coming from Boyd Gordon and a sixth for Ray Whitney, an empty net goal. This defence first mentality the Coyotes brought to the ice also brought head coach Dave Tippet his 100th win behind the Yotes bench. What better way than to celebrate the milestone with a home win at the Jobing!

v Canadiens, The Coyotes second game at home, in a row, saw the men from Montreal come to the desert. The Canadiens arrived missing three forwards and facing a three game skid the Canadiens would be hungry. With Langkow missing due to family reasons the Phoenix toplines had to be juggled around and it showed. With the Coyotes goals coming from their third and fourth lines. Despite withstanding a 34 shot Montreal first period the Coyotes could not get the win in regulation. But thanks to Mikkel Boedker and Raffi Torres the game went to OT, only for the Canadiens Josh Gorges to seal the extra point for the Canadiens. Against a team like Montreal who, I would expect to be challenging come the post season, to get a point, im a happy Coyotes fan. While a home win would be so much better, 1 point is better than a big fat 0!

@ Sharks, After the loss to Montreal the Phoenix headed to California to face division rivals the San Jose Sharks. This game would also give the Coyotes a chance to atone for their opening day loss to the Sharks in Cali, when they allowed 52 shots. So far this season the Coyotes have been red hot when scoring first, since Dave Tippet took over the Coyotes have won 73 games when scoring first. It's almost like the stars were aligning for a Phoenix win after the first period, as the Yotes exploded out the blocks. After the first session the Yotes were 2-0 to the good through goals from Vrbata and Boyd Gordon. The Coyotes now had to ensure that lead was not surrendered! Step up Mike Smith, he did and then some! Only one more goal would be a Coyote! Patrick O'Sullivan got the insurance and Mike Smith got the shutout!

@ Maple Leafs, The Phoenix roadtrip continued with a trip to Toronto to face an improved Maple Leafs, after picking up an OT loss and a win the Coyotes were up to 3 points so far on the road trip. The Coyotes once again played an excellent first period and, again, would find themselves 2-0 up after the first session. First period goals from Shane Doan and Oliver Ekman-Larsson would see the Yotes into the lead up until the third period. Mike Komisarek and Phil Kessel brought the Leafs back into the game, and forced OT. With no goals scored we went to every fan's favourite hockey time, the shootout! Thankfully Mike Smith came up big again and saved both Toronto's attempts in the shootout while O'Sullivan and Vrbata scored with theirs, giving the Yotes the win!

@ Flyers, Next up for the Yotes roadtrip was a trip to Philadelphia and the first game against ex Coyotes Ilya Bryzgalov. The game would turn out to be an old fashioned goalie duel with new Phoenix nettie Mike Smith coming up against his predecessor. In fact, so tight was the game that, it was only decided with just 18.6seconds left on the clock. The Flyers went ahead in the second period through James van Riemsdyk only for Boedker to tie the game early in the third period. Matt Read got the winning goal and give Bryzgalov the win against his old team. The victory for the Flyers also broke the Coyotes five game road win streak.

@ Sabres, The Coyotes turned north and headed to Buffalo for game four of this roadtrip and for the first time ever in his NHL career gave Paul Bissonnette a chance to play in front of family. With around 50 family in attendance Bissonnett would break a 2-2 tie and give the Coyotes the go-ahead goal and impetus to win. Towards the mid point of the game Phoenix and Buffalo traded goals. Doan and Vrbata scoring for Phoenix and Adam and Kaleta scoring for the Sabres. In fact Vrbata and Bissonnette's goals came within 70 seconds of each other and really knocked the stuffing out of the Sabres. Buffalo only managed 15 shots after and the Coyotes were the only team to score another goal. Radim Vrbata getting his second of the game, an empty net goa, with just over a minute to go.

@ Capitals, The last stop in the Coyotes west to east roadtrip ended in the nations capital against the Capitals. In the end it was almost de-ja-vu for the Coyotes, facing an opposition on the slide and a head coach on the cusp of a milestone victory. The capitals on the back of a 6 in 7 loss streak and Boudreau looking for win number 200! Phoenix, with LeBarbara in net looked to spoil the party by jumping to a 2-0 lead through goals from Vrbata and Korpikoski, both short handed in fact look to have put the Yotes on the way. Only for Washington to score 4 unanswered to ultimately win the game. That comeback coming from Carlson, Eakin, Backstrom and Laich. Korpikoski would get his second of the game to bring the Yotes within one, but the comeback was not to be and the Caps held out for Boudreau's 200th win.

v Ducks, The Yotes returned to warmer and more familiar climbs after their epic road trip, to begin a three game homestand against Division rivals the Ducks. Despite the Ducks scoring first through Koivu the Coyotes hit right back with 4 unanswered goals to win the game. Mike Smith proving he has the Ducks figured out improved to 5-0-1 against the Ducks. The Phoenix hot streak came from Yandle, Eckman-Larsson and current player in form Vrbata with two. Vrbata's pair of goals lifting him to 11 for the season. Corey Perry would get his 8th of the season and the Ducks second of the game but the Yotes got the win and began the homestand with the W.

v Canucks, Last seasons Stanley Cup finalists were next to come to the desert and bring the much heralded Sedin twins to the Jobing ice. Going into the game I would have expected a loss, but would have been delighted with a point. Unfortunately it wasn't to be and the Canucks rolled the Coyotes and left with a 5-0 shutout and two points. Mike Smith's recent hot form, 8-1-1 over a month and a save % of .946 was blown out of the water by goals from Salo, Kesla, Booth, LaPierre and Burrows. The one possible bright spot for Tippet and the Coyotes was the penalty kill unit. Phoenix stopped the NHL's best PP unit on all 5 chances and 1min 31sec of 5 on 3. Not many positives but an impressive one none the less!

v Stars, After such a tough loss against the Canucks the Coyotes welcomed the Stars to Phoenix. So far the Coyotes had managed to surrender winning positions to the Stars late in the game, this would be an opportunity to right that wrong. The game also saw Langkow return to the coyotes lineup after his own personal tragedy. The Coyotes were brilliant, after surrendering those late leads and two OT losses to Dallas the Coyotes responded with a 3-0 shutout win on home ice. That shutout was Smith's 13th of his career and improves him to 3-0-0 against the Stars in regulation. The Coyotes goals came from Boedker, Whitney and Pyatt.

@ Blackhawks, The Coyotes rolled into Chicago to take on the Blackhawks and played their best road form. Able to play their hard-checking, suffocating style of play the Coyotes raced into the lead and never looked back. With Mike Smith in fine form between the pipes the Coyotes took the lead in the first period through Daymond Langkow's fourth goal of the season. Shane Doan then blasted a slap shot from the right circle that went straight through Crawford, giving the Yotes a 2-0 lead midway through the game. The Coyotes wrapped up the game in the first 5 minutes of the third period, Vrbata continuing his hot streak scoring the Yotes 3rd just after the start of the period and Whitney making it four at the 5min mark. The Blackhawks finally gave their fans something to cheer about when they got their only goal of the game in the last minute, denying Mike Smith a shutout, Patrick Sharp making the final score 4-1 Coyotes.

Coyotes end the month 8-4-1

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Phoenix v Slough Jets 27th November Game Review

The weekends games saw the Phoenix travel down to Basingstoke to take on the Bison before returning to the Dome to play Slough. After the Phoenix much improved performance over Peterborough last sunday in the bank, saturday's game was a chance to carry on the revival, however, full concentration would be needed as the Bison are no easy team to play, especially in their own barn. In the end the Phoenix beat my own expectations, despite going down to the Bison the Phoenix scored 5 un-answered to come back to Altrincham with a 5-1 victory and both points on offer. Setting things up nicely and the Phoenix first shot at a 4 point weekend in a while!

First Period: Games against Slough have always been tough, ever since joining the EPL the Jets have had a good record against the Phoenix. In the Greener brothers they have some of the leagues best agitators, in Dan Davies they have one of the best Brits and in Calder and Pliskauskas they have two of the EPL's best forwards. The first period was entertaining, fast and relatively even but with Slough creating most of the clear cut chances. Only one goal came of the period, and came for Slough. Showing just how tight the margins are in this league, Calder was left alone on the hashmarks for one second and unleashed a laser of a wrist shot into the Phoenix net. 1-0 Slough and probably a fair return for their efforts, the goal coming at 7min 59sec.

Second Period: What followed, quite simply, was the worst period of hockey from the Phoenix I have seen yet! Slough utterly dominated the Phoenix and the Phoenix looked absolutely lost. Slough's onslaught began less than two minutes into the period when Calder got his second of the game at 21min 51sec. Their third and fourth goals came within two minutes of each other, with J Greener scoring on the powerplay at 27min 57sec and Dough Sheppard scoring a short handed goal at 29min 51sec. In fact that passage of play summed the Phoenix up this period. The Phoenix had, up to this point, had a couple of PP opportunities and struggled, again, to get set up in the opposition zone. Slough get a PP and score within 3 seconds! Then, as they are killing a penalty score a short handed goal. Then when Dan Davies got their 5th at 35min 21sec the Phoenix looked dead and buried. Im not sure if anyone did leave at that point but, I would have forgiven them for doing so!

Third Period: If the second period was the worst i'd ever seen at the Dome, the third showed the Phoenix grew a pair and started to fight and claw their way back into the game. After bemoaning the PP earlier above, it would be the Phoenix PP that would haul them back into the game. Tom Duggan scored first, getting another goal and deservedly so for his recent performances. His goal came at 44min 37sec, less than a minute and a half later Jaroslav Spelda capped his comeback game with a goal at 45min 54sec. Phoenix tails were up, the Phoenix faithful were right back in the game and the pressure continued. Slava (Dave) Koulikov score the Phoenix third goal at 49min 00sec to bring the Phoenix within two. But, despite pulling Fone for the extra attacker no further goals were scored and Slough headed back south with a 5-3 victory.

Verdict: A real chance missed for a four point weekend, one of the worst 20mins of play by a Phoenix team, and for over 40mins of the game absolutely nothing to tempt the hundreds of newbies in the Ice Dome. I am delighted the Phoenix showed some fight and got back into the game, certainly made the scoreboard more respectable, but that cant paper over the fact that for the most part, this was a step back for the Phoenix. Ok, a few lucky bounces in that third period comeback, especially for Koulikov and the Phoenix could have tied the game. The most worrying thing for me now, seems to be the trend where the Phoenix will pull off a great road win, only to scupper that by turning in a lackluster performance at home. I would absolutely trade road wins for home wins! That being said, the Phoenix are slowly returning to health, Tony Hand has had a few games now to see how the team plays, and hopefully to make improvements in game plan and tactics and once again, the Phoenix have a mixed weekend and yet, are still in touching distance of the top. I am thankful that this seasons EPL is so close and tough to call!

Attendance: Boosted by quite a few newbies I would guess around the 1,000 mark again!

Phoenix 3 Slough 5 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 3 Slough 5 - Sough Article
Phoenix 3 Slough 5 - CB Sport