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?