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