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Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Phoenix v MK Lightning 9th December Game Review

Going in to last weekend the Phoenix were having a bit of a wobble, having gone four games without a win and only one point to show for it. The weekend would also be the last, in Phoenix colours, for Scott McKenzie. After a mutual decision he was to leave and return to the Telford Tigers. His space on the roster being filled by Barrie McKenzie who joins the Phoenix from the Cardiff Devils. Personally, im gutted to lose Scott, while he had not been lighting the lamp with consistency he is a player who I was very please with joining the Phoenix. He stands out as a quality quality player on the Tigers lineup. 

Who knows the reasons for his leaving but, all his work and efforts while pulling on the Phoenix jersey were appreciated by us fans and, I hope we get to see him lace up his boots for the Phoenix in the future! 

MK are the  latest visitors to the Ice Dome and always provide a feisty opponent. They have a wily mind in Nick Poole and EPL veteran Nicky Chinn, MK are a team that is run on a tight ship and will always compete and give you a hard time. That being said I would always expect the Phoenix to close out a win on home ice to MK, famous last words and all that! Early team news for the Phoenix. Steve Fone, who sat out the previous nights win in Bracknell would also sit out this game to aid his recovery from a groin strain. Robert Schanbel, who left the Bracknell game due to injury would also miss this game. 

First Period: This was going to be a physical game, MK have a big squad and they use their size and strength well in their game plan. With Jorge in net for the Phoenix the home side had to work hard in defence to protect their young backup. Throughout the period the plan seemed to work and it was the Phoenix who had the majority of chances. With Stephen Wall in goal those chances were not close to scoring sadly, that man is immense in goal! MK did carve out their own chances but the Phoenix were able to limit those chances to long shots and, were fortunate MK's shooting was a little off. The first period ended with no goals and, if you can believe it, with the Phoenix putting 25 shots on Wall while Jorge faced 3! 

Second Period: The second continued much like the first but with MK ramping up their physicality and coming more into the game. The hits really were increasing in ferocity. There were some lovely centre ice hits from both teams and, despite some calls by my fellow Phoenix faithful I thought, for the most part, they were clean. The second followed the same pattern, big hits, shots reigning in on Wall and Jorge more than equal in the Phoenix net, so it will be no surprise to you there were no goals scored in the second period either. 

Third Period: With the game now coming down to one 20 minute session the stakes were high now, the first to score would, more than likely, win the game. So the hits got harder and the chances more important. 10 minutes passed with some entertaining hockey but a big lack of goals. The duck was finally broken at 52min 34sec when Psurny got in close on Wall and managed to lift the puck over his shoulder to light the lamp and give the Phoenix the lead. MK had to press now but were still not getting close. Either through good hard defending, Jorge being up to the task or the shots not being good enough. Into the last minute and both teams called time out's and, with the puck in the Phoenix zone, Wall went for the bench. The puck was sent up ice into MK's zone with Flaten in pursuit, we got there and centred for the on rushing Archer to tap in the ENG at 59min 12sec. Giving the home side a 2-0 win! 

Verdict: A hard fought win for the Phoenix and a 4 point weekend. MK games are always tough so each win is even more sweet. The past weekend saw two wins for El-Hage and a finale for Scott McKenzie. The latter having his name sung for the last two mins of regulation and a standing O in centre ice. Scott will be missed but the team moves on. The win was also important in getting the momentum back and ensuring we don' get left behind in the race for the EPL title. 

Attendance: A good one in the Ice Dome, MK always bring one of the larger away followings to the Ice Dome, i'll guess at 1,100 in the Ice Dome 

Phoenix 2 MK 0 - Phoenix Article

Bees 3 Phoenix 5 - Phoenix Article
Bees 3 Phoenix 5 - Bees Article

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Phoenix v Slough Jets 2nd December Game Review

The weekend just gone was the second tough one in a row. Saturday saw the Phoenix travel down to EPL leaders Basingstoke Bison. Any game against the Bison is tough, especially as the points are vital to the league campaign. For the Phoenix, it would be another disappointing result, another loss to the Bison which, very much, puts them in the driving seat for the EPL league title. Following up that game was a home game versus the Slough Jets. The Phoenix were without Tom Duggan for this one as he rested a concussion injury sustained in Basingstoke. 
First Period: 
The Phoenix opened up the period and looked to be in good form. The early chances fell to the home side and Slough were restricted to the odd chance here or there. The first goal came for the home side as Ciaran Long lit the lampt after 7min 43sec. The dominance continued and the Phoenix were looking good at this stage. That being said the Jets did look to up their work rate and, as most EPL fans know they have some potent scorers! Phoenix doubled their lead through Flaten at 13min 12sec and looked comfortable at the time. But, dont underestimate the Jets. Koulikov, a loved figure in the Ice Dome, would return to haunt the Phoenix as he slotted home a lovely goal at 17min 24sec to make sure the Phoenix didn't have it all their own way in the first period. 

Second Period: Slough changed their game plan in the second and began to flood centre ice. This disrupted the Phoenix play and began to level out the game. With the game going flat, the atmosphere dropped too! The Phoenix still had the possession but couldn't do allot with it and, the Jets were not offering much either. With the period winding down that man, Darius Pliskauskas, one guy I've always wanted the Phoenix to sign, achieved parity for the Jets. Levelling the scores with just 36sec left in the second period. 

Third Period: A period much like the second, nothing inspiring on the ice lead to the age old sporting conundrum. Do the players need the crowd to lift them or, should the players be lifting the crowd? Either way the third was a pretty dire affair in terms of the hockey on the ice. Nearing the end of the game Archer latched on to a long pass and raced clear to score past Rockman at 53min 47sec. The game continued and the Phoenix would give up another late goal in the period. Bakrlik getting the equaliser at 59min 13sec sending the game into overtime. 

Overtime: No goals to settle the game came from the extra session. At this time tension in the crowd started rising quickly as word got round the Bison had lost. An ideal time to make up some ground then! 

Penalty Shots: To be honest all bar one of the PS attempts were utterly useless! Bakrlik went last for Slough and scored from a thoughtful attempt. The Phoenix missed their next attempt so Slough got the extra point!
Verdict: Disappointing from the Phoenix. The performance was below par and Slough didn't particularly do much to claim the win outright. But, they took their chances so far do's! For me, it was disappointing to see the guys not take advantage of the game to snap out this little dip the Phoenix are in. We have beaten the Jets in Altrincham before and, with the Bison losing, a win would have been huge. I just hope the point is a step in the right direction! 

Attendance: An average crowd in a blumin freezing Ice Dome, so i'll guess at around 1,000 in. 

Phoenix 3 Slough 4 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 3 Slough 4 - Jets Article

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Phoenix v Basingstoke Bison 25th November Game Review

A tough weekend for the Phoenix saw them make the  trip south to Swindon and then welcome the Basingstoke Bison to the Ice Dome. Swindon has never been an easy place for the Phoenix to go and saturday saw them experience a 4-2 loss, despite taking the lead twice. With the Bison next up, and with how they play in mind, this could be the first null point weekend!

First Period: As the game got underway the farmiliar patter emerged, Phoenix with the puck, most of the possession but restricted to long shots and no whiff of goal. The Bison were employing the same tactic as their last visit to the Ice Dome and, it was working a treat. The Bison sat back to defend and rely on Lyle, while looking to hit the Phoenix on the breakout. It worked so well that the Bison took the lead after just 1min 22sec when Owen got his first of the night. The Bison extended their lead after 15min 53sec when Owen scored again on the powerplay.

Second Period: The second continued as the first had left off, the Phoenix far outshooting the Bison but not getting in Lyle's face of causing him much trouble. Around the halfway mark of the period the Bison scored a lovely breakaway goal with Csesky tapping in to an open net after 30min 29sec. For me, that was game over. It was a beautiful goal and I couldn't see the Phoenix getting 4 to win. Even when Flaten finally got the Phoenix on the board at 36min 3xsec it still looked a tall order.

Third Period: The Phoenix finally changed tactic in the third and began get in Lyle's face and upset him. This period would also see a very controversial incident which has been talked about on twitter and the forums for the past few days. Anyway, the game, the Phoenix got their second of the game through Psurny at 50min 28sec which got them within one but, the Bison hit right back. At 50min 42sec Rand extended their lead to 4-2 and looked to have secured the points. Phoenix hopes were lifted when James Archer got their third at 54min 26sec and the Phoenix kept up the pressure to force OT. With around a minute to go the Phoenix thought they had scored, the puck was in the light was on and yet the ref washed it off. Many in the stands, myself included, saw Lyle kick the net off its moorings after the puck had gone in. I know there are plenty who will disagree but I know what I saw. The Phoenix had been robbed of a perfectly good goal and, a disgraceful action by Lyle. A keeper I had much respect for! Anyway the goal did not stand and the game ended 4-3 Bison.

Verdict: For two periods the Bison played as expected and were heading for another comfortable win. The third period the Phoenix finally got through to Lyle and started to make it count. On balance, however, the Bison deserved the win, but not the fasion they got it! Lyle disgraced them sunday night, that is sure! Putting that aside, it is difficult to look past the Bison for EPL winners this year, while there are better skater teams in the EPL in Lyle they have a goalie on another level. For me, now, it is their title to loose.

Attendance: A decent, but not the biggest, crown in the Ice Dome. I'll say 1,100 in.

Phoenix 3 Bison 4 - Phoenix Article

Phoenix 3 Bison 4 - Bison Article

Monday, 26 November 2012

Phoenix v Swindon Wildcats 18th November Game Review

After the Phoenix win against the Phantoms they had two away games to follow. The first, away to Telford in their re-furbished rink which The Angry Budgie attended. That was a disappointing loss and one that showed the effect of losing Tony Hand to Team GB. The second away game was to re-visit the scene of the Phoenix earlier 8-2 demolition at MK. Thankfully this visit would be more fruitful for the Phoenix, winning as they did, 4-1. The Wildcats were the visitors to the Ice Dome last sunday and, so far, the Phoenix were enjoying some good form against the Wildcats. Hopefully that would continue!

First Period: With Tony Hand back in the line-up the Phoenix came out firing and set about the Wildcats from the first puck drop. Again the Phoenix would get an early goal and they would dominate the opening session. The first goal came after just 1min 47sec when Pozivil got his goal. Shortly after Michael Psurny doubled the Phoenix lead at 3min 50 and Ciaran Long would cap an explosive first period with the Phoenix third goal at 11min 10sec. Even the most ardent Wildcats fan, after watching that first period, would say the game was done and dusted.

Second Period: That assumption, especially this season in the EPL, is a dangerous one. The Wildcats, after what must have been a harsh intermission, found their legs and began to work their way back into the game. Tom Duggan would extend the Phoenix lead to 4 goals to 0 at 23min 36sec with a lovely shot through the 5 hole. I don't know if it was the Phoenix easing off, but the Wildcats came roaring back and completely owned the last 10 minutes of the period. Kapicka got their first at 31min 58sec, then Jones on the powerplay at 37min 20sec and Kapicka got his second at 38min 25sec when he pounced on a Boothroyd mistake to bring the Cats to within one.

Third Period: With the way the game had gone in the back end of the second period it would be no surprise that the Wildcats tied the game in the final session. The Phoenix were still creating chances but the uncertainty in the Wildcats D from the first period had well and truly gone. The Wildcats got their deserved game leveler at 52min 07sec when Kapicka got his hattrick goal. The Phoenix discipline in the third period was poor, mistakes were creeping their way in and were capped by the Phoenix taking a too-many-men penalty with 10sec to go. Thus handing Swindon the advantage going into overtime.

Overtime: Thankfully the Wildcats could not take advantage and as soon as the Phoenix were back up to full strength they camped out in the Swindon zone. Working the puck round it found Boothroyd free on the far point in so much space, he had time to steady the puck and fire in the game winner, timed at 62min 23sec.

Verdict: On the whole the Phoenix dominated the first, but a lack of concentration and a resurgent Wildcats made the second and third tough to watch. Especially as the game should have been over after the first. Great to get the win and keep pace with the Bison but, worrying to see Fone laboring towards the end and Pozivil who didn't ice for the third period. A week off will hopefully do wonders!

Attendance: Another good crowd in the Dome, the sequence of home wins doing well to bring people back. I'll say 1,150 in.

Phoenix 5 Swindon 4 - Phoenix Article

Phoenix 5 Swindon 4 - Wildcats Article

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Phoenix v Peterborough Phantoms 10th November Game Review

The weekend just gone saw the Phoenix play in Altrincham on a rare saturday night fixture before travelling down to Shropshire to take on the Tigers sunday. A big crowd descended on the Ice Dome with hopes of a Phoenix victory, going into the game the Phoenix were without Tony Hand who was at the helm of Team GB in Japan.

First Period: The game opened up with the, Tony Handless Phoenix, taking the bull by the horns and exploding out the traps. Within the first 30seconds the Phoenix were on the board and ahead in the game. Flaten with the first score after just 27 seconds. Sometimes early goals are good, sometimes they are not. The early goal settled the Phoenix as they set about the Phantoms. This Phantoms team work hard and in Lauko, much like his time in Bisonland, they have a player who seems to score regularly against the Phoenix. Lauko pulled the Phantoms level after 14min 05sec. No further score and the teams headed into the intermission level at 1-1.

Second Period: The Phoenix began to take control in the second period. The next goal of the game came for the Phoenix at 21min 04sec when Robert Schnabel took a bullet of a shot from the blue line to give the Phoenix the lead, the big Czech D man was at it again when he got his second at 23min 12sec.. With 5 minutes to go in the period the Phoenix extended their lead through the in form Andy McKinnie when he got the Phoenix 3rd goal at 35min 46sec. End of the period scores on the doors were 4-1 Phoenix.

Third Period: Things went a bit mental in the third period, the Phoenix began to loose focus and the Phantoms slowly fought their way back into the game. McKinnie got his second of the game about two minutes into the period to make it 5-1 Phoenix and here began the Phantoms fight back. While on the powerplay Ferrara scored at 44min 57sec. The most frustrating thing about the goal was, the Phoenix had failed so far on their PP and, as soon as Peterborough got a PP opportunity, they scored. The Phoenix got one to add to their tally from Long at 48min 57sec to make it 6-2, but this sparked the Phantoms into life. 3 un-answered goals brought the Phantoms within one goal of the Phoenix. Glowa got the Phantoms 3rd at 45min 33sec then Carlon reduced the deficit to two at 50min 36sec. Then, with less than 5 minutes to go the Phantoms ensured some 'squeaky bum time' when they grabbed number 5 at 55min 14sec when Glowa got another. This goal incensed the crowd and Schnabel. Prior to the goal Ciaran Long laid a lovely hip check on a Phantoms player but, was called for clipping. Schanbel had words and then, when the Phantoms scored, lost it and got himself ejected on an abuse of official call. With the clock ticking down the Phantoms pressed for the equaliser but, the Phoenix would grab the last goal of the game. James Archer getting a just reward at 59min 18sec.

Verdict: Not the best of games for the Phoenix, at times they were brilliant, at times they were stupid. Schanbel, as the most experienced guy on the ice for the Phoenix let himself down during the last 5 minutes which could have hurt us badly. The Phantoms are a tricky opponent and the Phoenix coped well but, did look to miss Tony's calming influence at times. It's quite noticeable how much focus he brings to the dressing room.

Attendance: Very good crowd for a saturday night game, i'll guess at around 1,200 in.

Phoenix 7 Peterborough 5 - Phoenix Article

Phoenix 7 Peterborough 5 - Phantoms Article 

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Phoenix v Bracknell Bees 28th October Game Review

Halloween weekend saw the Phoenix take on the Slough Jets and the Bracknell Bees. My thoughts going into the weekend would be, a tough game down in Slough and a win at home against the Bees. The Phoenix surprised many people with a come-from-behind 7-5 victory over the Jets, including scoring 4 un-answered goals to take the win. This set the weekend off to the best possible start!

The home game, while on paper the Phoenix should win, would not be easy. The Bees still have Smital and Masa, two of the best players in the EPL and have increased their muscle this year, early season reports have the Bees down as a much tougher team to play.

First Period: The game got underway and the Phoenix took control. Following on from a two goal/1 assist performance down in Slough, Andy McKinnie continued his recent scoring streak by netting the Phoenix first goal at 6min 57sec. McKinnie's goal capping a lovely flowing move up the ice from the Phoenix. Throughout this first period I was surprised by how poor the Bees were, those early season reports had obviously inflated my expectations of them. The Phoenix continued to dominate and the second goal was inevitable. The face off was down in the Bees zone, the puck went back to Schabel on the point who let rip with a gorgeous slap shot to the top right corner, lovely goal. The Phoenix finished the period strong with Psurny getting their third with just 10sec left on the clock.

Second Period: The Bees regrouped during the interval, it showed too! The second period was much more of a contest, the Bees were working harder and competing stronger for each possession.  In fact it was the Bees who scored the next goal. A great bit of passing opened up some space and the puck found Lamey ghosting in on the back post to slot the puck home. At this point the Phoenix looked like they were playing in neutral and really needed to engage gear to win the game. Thankfully they did, got the next goal, to restore their three goal advantage. Ciaran Long scoring next at 32min 40sec. That would be the last scoring of the period, end of the 2nd 4-1 Phoenix.

Third Period: Just 20 minutes to go and the Phoenix came out strong. The second period resistance by the Bees seemed to disappear. The Phoenix controlled the puck and a blistering two goal salvo killed the game off. Psurny got his second of the night at 48min 19sec and, just 16sec later Richie Bentham capped an impressive game for himself with the Phoenix sixth goal at 48min 35sec. With the score now 6-1 to the Phoenix the Bees called a timeout and decided to replace Annettes for Ambler, at the same time the Phoenix gave Fone his rest and brough El-Hage in for the remaining 10minutes or so. With the game winding down only one further goal came, and that was Psurny's hattrick goal. The final goal of the game timed at 53min 54sec.

Verdict: Given me impressions of the Bees, coming into the game, I was surprised by how far they fell below my expectations. The Bees we good, but I had the impression they were a tough cookie to beat this year. Masa and Smital, when they turn it on, are still a class act. But they didn't show enough sunday night at all. The Phoenix, on the other hand, were very impressive. In control for the majority of the game each player played well. Fone will be disappointed to loose the SO but very happy with the win.

Attendance: A good crowd in the dome, with some in fancy dress - including myself! I'll say around 1,100 in the Ice Dome.

Slough 5 Phoenix 7 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 7 Bees 1 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 7 Bees 1 - Bees Article
Phoenix 7 Bees 1 - MEN Article

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Phoenix v MK Lightning 21st October Game Review

After the Guildford four point weekend the Phoenix were on a bit of a roll, that roll would be severely tested against the Bison (away) and MK (home). In the two games played against the Bison the Phoenix have struggled to solve the Lyle problem, they do enough and get enough pucks on him but have not scored past the fine keeper to date. Saturday night, sadly, saw the Phoenix lose 3-1, on the bright side they did score! 

Next up, the not so insignificant task of overcoming the MK lightning. Usually the Phoenix do well against MK however, the Phoenix have had the customary blowout down in MK. With that out the way it as time for revenge back at the Ice Dome. 

First Period: The game opened with the Phoenix taking the initiative and reigning shots on Alex Mettam who, didn't look too secure. Moving around his goal he gave up plenty of re-bounds and, at times, looked quite shaky. With the early pressure it was no surprise the Phoenix took the lead. McKinnie scoring with just 5min 07sec gone. MK do have some dangerous players and in Nick Poole they have a great hockey mind in their midst. With Calder and Emersic they have two of the leagues most potent forwards. Thankfully the Phoenix were working hard to limit their chances on the puck but, even when MK did get through, Fone was there playing a blinder. The main talking point of the period was a match penalty assessed to Ciaran Long for a check to the head. This was unfortunate as it looked a brilliant hit but, as in the words of the Phoenix podcast disclaimer, the word of the official is law! 

Second Period: This game was going to be much tighter than the two clubs first encounter but, I always thought the Phoenix just had the edge. MK began to up the intensity and, with the ref being the ref's usual diabolical self, the teams began to trade powerplays. MK slowly clambered their way back into the game and began to exert some pressure on the Phoenix defense. That pressure was to be rewarded when Leigh Jamieson leveled the scores at 38min 41sec. The back and forth nature of the game continued with MK shading the period by the end of the session. 

Third Period: After the second intermission it seemed the Phoenix had re-grouped, they took the game by the scruff of the neck and went in search of the go ahead goal. Thankfully, it came, at 48min 20sec. McKenzie, breaking down the left wing saw McKinnie free on the other side and found him with a sweet pass, McKinnie in acres of space coolly slotted home for a gorgeous goal. As many of you readers will know, MK have skill in their team, they would level the game, again, at 54min 09sec while on the powerplay. The Lightning cycling the puck round the Phoenix zone found Carr who scored a lovely goal to tie the scores at 2-2-. 

Overtime: The game went to OT after no further goals were scored. With 4 on 4 the game opened up and a few more chances were created, but with Mettam and Fone turning aside all shots the game was to go to a penalty shootout. 

Penalty Shots: The first time these had been seen at the Ice Dome so far this season and the Phoenix won. Psurny stepped up first and lifted a great shot above the sprawling Mettam. No other player could score, with MK missing all their three, Fone standing tall and turning away all he faced the Phoenix won and took the extra point. 

Verdict: The Phoenix played well and deserved to take the W but, I don't begrudge MK taking a point from the game. The biggest plus from the weekend was ensuring the points column kept ticking over for the Phoenix. Another good win in the Ice Dome and a win that exorcises the big loss suffered down in MK. 

Attendance: Buoyed by some groups in the Ice Dome i'll guess at around 1,100 in. 

Phoenix 3 MK 2 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 3 MK 2 - MEN Article

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Phoenix v Guildford Flames 14th October Game Review

Last weekend was a pretty big one for the Phoenix in the early stages of this EPL season. An away/home double header against last seasons EPL champions. Games between the two clubs are always damn good entertainment and there is some real quality hockey played. For these weekends I would always want at least two points, preferably a home win. Anything more is a bonus. 

The game down in Guildford was a surprise, the Phoenix came away with a 4-2 win with the last one being an ENG. Going into the game the Flames were suffering from a bit of a wobble in terms of form so, perhaps, the Phoenix caught them at the right time! Sundays home game would see one of two things, the Phoenix would grind out another win for a brilliant 4 point weekend or, the Flames would subject the Phoenix to a backlash and restore parity in the weekend. The latter having happened before! 

Highlights of the Flames v Phoenix game:

So, sunday rolls round and it's off to the Ice Dome for the #PyroDerby! 

First Period: As has become the norm for games against the Flames the opening was tight, fast and end to end. With Fone and Lee called upon early to prevents goals going in. Both sides were playing some flowing hockey that would convert any newbie into a hockey fan. Just listen to the podcast for the guy who was attending his first game! Games like these will often be decided on a slip or mistake and the first goal came from one. I think it was Schnabel down on the boards in the Flames zone who coughed up the puck and the Flames broke down ice. Some lovely passing saw the puck find Huppe who unleashed a beautiful one time to beat Fone. This goal would be the only of the period, despite the Phoenix applying heavy pressure to the Flames goal. 

Second Period: The game started to heat up (pun intended) in the second period, and most of the chances were falling to the Phoenix as they worked to get on level terms. The first Phoenix goal did come and fell to Scott McKenzie at 26min 38sec, the goal a deserved reward for his hard work in the game. Less than 4 minutes later the Phoenix took the lead. Psurny adding to his tally and early season form with a goal at 30min 32sec. The Flames, once again, proved their quality when Rempel leveled the game to ensure the Phoenix didn't take the game in the second session. Both goals came from lapses in Phoenix concentration which, no doubt, Tony Hand will be disappointed with. 

Third Period: The third period resumed as both sides went in search of the winner. Mark Lee and Stephen Fone were both putting in stellar performances to keep the puck out, you could argue Lee was having to do more work but, he was still keeping the puck out. The Phoenix kept up the pressure and were rewarded at 47min 11sec when Psurny got his second of the game. With the Phoenix ahead and the clock winding down the Flames began to up their intensity. They became more physical and began to try a few more risky plays for the leveler  With less than a minute to go they would snatch a dramatic equalizer when Hemmings forced the puck past Fone to tie the game with 54 seconds to go. 

Overtime: The 4 on 4 period included a penalty kill for the Phoenix with Schnabel in the box. Despite a few hairy moments the Phoenix managed to kill off the penalty and exert some of their own pressure. With a fortunate bounce the Phoenix attacked and Flaten was found free on goal and scored the winner. The Ice Dome erupted and the Phoenix completed a brilliant 4 point weekend over the Flames. 

Verdict: What a game, any newbie in last night will be hooked! The game was fast, skilful, end to end and, more importantly, a quality hockey game between two title challenging sides. The Flames will be disappointed to come out of this weekend dropping 3 points to a title rival. How important they could be come the seasons end. The Phoenix played their best hockey sunday night, Psurny and Flaten continue to impress and the rest of the team are really catching form now. 

Attendance: Flames games tend to bring extra fans through the door so I will say around 1,100 in. 

Guildford 2 Phoenix 4 - Phoenix Article
Guildford 2 Phoenix 4 - Flames Article

 Phoenix 4 Guildford 3 - Phoenix Article

Phoenix 4 Guildford 3 - Flames Article

Friday, 12 October 2012

Phoenix v Slough Jets 7th October Game Review

With no away game saturday night the Phoenix had a rare night off. The Slough Jets were the visitors to the Ice Dome which also saw the return of Slava 'Dave' Koulikov and Ladislav Harabin. Slough are a strong team again this year and the Phoenix would have to be at their best to take anything from the game. The Phoenix welcomed back Tom Duggan after his weekend off with a twisted knee and, the Phoenix remained without long term injured Liam Chong. 

First Period: The Phoenix opened the game with some early dominance, which was encouraging. What was frustrating, was the lack of clear chances close in to Rockman. Despite the early chances the Jets were first to score. Capitalising on yet another stray Phoenix pass in the Jets zone, Pliskauskas was set free and finished with a beut of a shot high into Fone's top right corner. The period continued the Phoenix having most of the chances but, none of real quality. Rockman will stop head on shots all day, the Phoenix needed to get in close and work a dirty goal. The other thing of note in the first period was, the officiating. Im never comfortable in criticizing the officials as, I know I couldn't do it myself. The shocking thing in the game so far, was how poor the linesmen were. Even in the first period there were numerous calls where the lines people were not sure, sadly this would continue through the game. 

Second Period: The second continued as the first left off, the teams traded end to end chances but both Fone and Rockman were up to the task. The second line for the Phoenix continued to be the highlight, the third with the energy and the first...well...that depended on Tony Hand. Hand was and has not clicked yet and, so far in this game, was poor again. Flaten and Psurny were working hard but Tony's passing was far below his standard. 

Third Period: With the second period goaless, the Phoenix had 20 minutes to get a goal. With Slough beginning to tire the Phoenix pressure continued to grow. The first line began to click and Flaten/Psurny were getting in close to Rockman. I did worry that, even if the Phoenix were to score, Slough had the quality on the ice to come right back and get a second. For 57 minutes of the game the Phoenix had no luck. With three to go the hockey gods finally reversed that and, with a Jets d man slipping on the blue line, James Archer was clear in on goal to level the game at 57min 17sec. The clock wound down and with no further goals, we went to overtime. 

Overtime: 4 on 4 opened up the Ice and the Phoenix imports started to exploit the extra space. The luck that came to the Phoenix late in the third continued into overtime. Tony Hand had the puck in the far corner and, with a Jets D man slipping again he was able to approach the net and fire a pass across to the un-makred Psurny on the far post to give the Phoenix the winner. Goal timed 62min 29sec. 

Verdict: A game where the Phoenix dominated but had no luck right up until the death. What has been a constant in the Phoenix home games so far is, the Phoenix are able to control the vast majority of the game, but opposition squads cram the hash marks and frustrate the Phoenix attack. Each team has been content to sit back and hit us on the break. Its frustrating to watch, im glad the Phoenix won as we need to build up some momentum to keep in touch at the top. For me, Tony Hand's form still worries me, while Flaten and Psurny are improving game by game, their success can depend on being fed by Hand. (bdum tsch) I feel sorry for the Slough fans, they looked like stopping the Phoenix for the full 60 and yet Slough lost. Although many will still say the point gained is worth the trip. 

Attendance: A few extra in the Ice Dome, i'll guess at 1,100 in. 

Phoenix 2 Slough 1 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 2 Slough 1 - Jets Article
Phoenix 2 Slough 1 - MEN Article

Monday, 8 October 2012

Phoenix v Swindon Wildcats 30th September Game Review

After the Tigers came the Wildcats! Swindon were the next visitors to the Ice Dome and a team the Phoenix struggle against down in Wiltshire. The Wildcats can be a difficult team to beat and with Hoog/Nell they have two of the leagues best snipers. Both can hurt teams so, if you want to succeed it is vital to shut them down. So far this season the Phoenix have struggled with scoring, against Swindon this must be rectified!

First Period: The game was reffed by Joy Tottman which, I think, may have been her first visit to the Ice Dome. The Phoenix were quick from the start and applied early pressure to the Wildcats. Despite previous games, where Phoenix have taken a while to get the first goal, they were on the board after 6min 10sec when Ciaran Long controlled the puck behind the Wildcats goal and, placed a lovely pass out front to McKinney who gleefully scored. The early elation was tempered as, in what would become a recurring theme, Hoog took advantage of a Phoenix breakdown in the Swindon zone to race up ice and score the equaliser. Shortly after it was the turn of the Phoenix to capitalise on a Swindon breakdown when McKenzie got the second at 11min 32sec. Just after the midway point of the period the Phoenix top line replicated the Phoenix first goal. This time Tony Hand found Psurny out front and the Czech man scored the Phoenix third at 12min 23sec. Swindon pulled a goal back when another giveaway, this time by Tony Hand, gave Swindon's number 10 the puck and he passed James Neil with ease to score. Neilzy won't like seeing that one back!

Second Period: The Phoenix continued to control the game, Swindon were limited to the odd breakaway. The Phoenix extended their lead at 26min 23sec when Luke Boothroyd continued his early season scoring record when he netted on the powerplay. Ciaran Long added another goal 90seconds later making it 5-2 on 27min 58sec. The Phoenix continued to press and there came a long ish pause in proceedings when Skinns took a full slapshot to the cage which clearly knocked the wind out of him. Thankfully he dusted himself down, got up, and continued in the game, top man! The Phoenix eased off in the game, which was dangerous given Swindon's potent offence. Swindon continued to work hard and pulled a goal back short handed when Nell took advantage of the Phoenix carelessness to score Swindon's third goal.

Third Period: Swindon got the best of starts when they latched on to a wayward Tony Hand pass, not for the first time, and Nicky Watt scored their fourth to set up a tense final period. The game continued as it had, with the Phoenix pressuring Swindon and Swindon looking to capitalise on any sloppy passing for breakaway opportunities. Towards the end of the period the Wildcats lack of scoring chances were starting to frustrate them, as Nickey Watt displayed one of the best paddies I have seen on the ice! A proper, two feet of the ice, its not fair jump! Swidon did have the puck in the net with a minute to go but Tottman, correclty, washed it out for a Swindon man in the crease.

Verdict: In the end the scoreline was closer than the match. That being said Swindon capitalised, almost every time, when the Phoenix lost concentration or let a sloppy wayward pass go. For the Phoenix it was good to see so many different scorers on the board and the first 4 point weekend of the season. Tony Hand has yet to hit the highs of previous seasons and, he was poor in this game. Too many giveaways and loose passes, James Neil succumbed too. He has set himself high standards so far this season, but this game was an off night for him. Which he can be forgiven for given how good he has been so far! Tony is still quality, maybe its just his age causing him to start the season slowly. The Phoenix managed to dominate the game, pleasingly, and all this we didn't seem to miss the injured Duggan all weekend, which was a nice bonus!

I thought Joy Tottman reffed a good game, apart from a bad call on a lovely clear ice hit by Ciaran Long but, you could use the podcast ref disclaimer on that one!

Attendance: Crowd's have settled down now and I would say another 1,000 ish crowd in the Ice Dome.

Phoenix 5 Swindon 4 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 5 Swindon 4 - MEN Article
Phoenix 5 Swindon 4 - Wildcats Article

Monday, 1 October 2012

Phoenix v Telford Tigers 23rd September Game Review

Next up for the Phoenix in the Ice Dome was the visit of the, currently homeless, Telford Tigers. Forced to open their season away from their Shropshire base the Tigers are awaiting the results of a multimillion pound refit of their home ice. I just hope they included new lights on the bill! The Tigers are a small budget team but one that can be hard to beat. In all games against the Phoenix they up their game and, Declan Ryan usually plays out of his skin. Like Bowns was for the Steeldogs, Ryan for Telford gives them a shot of getting points from any game. The Phoenix need to be sharp in their finishing to secure the two points!

First Period: The first period opened and, again, the Phoenix took the game to the Tigers with Ryan forced into some early saves. This years Phoenix seem able to retain possession and dominate play but, already in the early stages of this game, the Phoenix just couldn't score. As the period wore on it became more frustrating watching from the stands as our boys just couldn't turn their domination into results on the scoreboard. While more play was coming into the hashmarks the chances were either not on target or not cute enough to beat Ryan. Fone on the other hand was dealing easily with the few chances the Tigers had.

Second Period: The second continued just like the first, but the crowd and, to a certain extent, the Phoenix players began to get edgy. Chances were still being created but were being snatched at. Cool heads were needed! Thankfully the deadlock was broken in the second session. The Phoenix moved the puck around the Tigers zone quickly and found Flaten on the hash marks, who unleashed a quick one-time between Ryan's legs. The relief was evident on the players and fans, especially as Flaten had the puck on Ryan's back post only to hesitate and fluff the chance. The period continued but no further goals were scored.

Third Period: With the goal lead the Phoenix looked to lock up the game, the chances continued to flow for the Phoenix but the goal column stubbornly remained on 1 for the Phoenix. That is until half way through the session when the Phoenix made it two through Psurny at 49min 45sec. He loved that goal too! I must say the Phoenix are still crap on the powerplay, I mean beyond crap! Their inability on the PP was rammed home when Telford got their only goal on a man advantage at 51min 38sec when Luke Brittle was found clear on Fone's back post to score. This sent to traveling fans ballistic and set up a nervy last 10mins or so. Thankfully those nerves were eased with a minute to go when Flaten scored his second of the night at 59min 11sec.

Verdict: Telford are a much better side this year and wont be the pushovers of previous seasons. That being said, without Ryan in goal they would concede many more goals. He does give the Tigers a shot in each game he plays. Credit must go to the Tigers fans too who, while small in number, made a lot of noise! The Phoenix will be happy with the win but, with the number of chances and possession, we should have buried the Tigers. The one thing that keeps me optimistic is, our forwards are yet to find their sharpness, when they do, this Phoenix team will be potent! They have skill, toughness and create lots of chances. The sharpness/fitness is just needed to finish them!

Attendance: A smaller crowd than the Bison game so i'll say 1,000 in the Ice Dome.


Phoenix 3 Telford 1 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 3 Telford 1 - Tigers Article

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Phoenix v Basingstoke Bison 16th September Game Review

After the disappointment of loosing the 'War of the Roses' cup the Phoenix had to dust themselves down and get ready for the opening weekend of the 2012/13 season. This year the opening weekend would be a tough one away to Swindon, traditionally a place where the Phoenix have struggled, then home to the Basingstoke Bison. The away game in Swindon proved to be another tight game, after going down 2-0 early in the game the Phoenix fought back and tied the game 2-2. Overtime couldnt separate them so penalty shots it was. New boy Psurny scored amongst the Phoenix shooters and the Phoenix headed back north with a 3-2 win after penalty shots. A wet sunday saw the Phoenix masses assemble for the EPL campaign against a vastly different Bison team the highlight of which, perhaps, was the debut EPL season for Stevie Lyle. One of the best British goalies to take to the ice, it's a little strange as to why he couldn't remain in the EIHL but im sure Bison fans don't care a jot!

First Period: Off we go and what a difference to last week. This was a hockey game! Games between the Phoenix/Bison have always been good/competitive hockey games and good adverts for EPL hockey. The early stages were faily even as both sides found their footing but, as the period progressed the Phoenix began to dominate. In a theme that would repeat throughout the Phoenix dominated possession but were restricted to long shots which Lyle will save in his sleep. The Bison were working very hard at keeping the hash marks clear and sweeping away the numerous rebounds given by Lyle. The first goal came for the Bison, against the run of play, after the Phoenix got into penalty trouble. After the Phoenix had wasted a few PP opportunities it was somewhat embarrassing how quickly the Bison scored on their first. Granted it was a 5 on 3 but the Bison must have scored just 5 sec after the second Phoenix player went into the box! The goalscorer was Greg Owen the goal coming at 13min 24sec. The rest of the period saw the Phoenix press for an equalizer but none came.

Second Period: The second session was much like the first, the Phoenix with all the possession and chances but nothing clear cut and no goals! It was good to see the Phoenix playing so well, and seeing Psurny show his wares, he is another brilliant find!, but frustrating to see no clear chances come to the home side. The hashmarks again were kept clear and the Phoenix struggled to get near and pick up the rebounds coming from Lyle.

Third Period: The Phoenix had to score, we had now gone 5 periods at home without scoring, you can imagine the relief when the Phoenix did finally get on the board. At 43min 09sec the Phoenix advanced down the left, Archer drops the puck back to McKenzie who lets rip with a wicked shot through the 5 hole. Lyle completely screened by Archer and the Bison D. As the game progressed and the Phoenix pushed for the winner, the Bison would break home fans hearts and score their second. Joe Greener scoring after 51min 03sec. A few more frustrating Phoenix powerplays followed with not a hint of a goal and the clock wound down to condemn the Phoenix to a loss.

Verdict: A much easier loss to take this one, as it was a damn good game of hockey! On balance of play the Bison didn't deserve to win but, they worked hard on D and Lyle stood on his head. 45 shots on him and he only conceded one, he won the game for the Bison. The Phoenix played well but it was concerning how we couldn't get close to Lyle and pick up any rebounds. This was very much a  winnable game! Nevermind!

Attendance: About 1,100 in the Ice Dome

Phoenix 1 Bison 2 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 1 Bison 2 - Bison Article

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Phoenix v Sheffield Steeldogs 9th September Game Review (War of the Roses)

After a long long summer Ice Hockey is back! The new look Phoenix returned to the ice for the, now traditional, war of the roses series against the Sheffield Steeldogs. Leg one, over in Sheffield, took place thursday night and the Steeldogs come into Altrincham holding a 3-2 lead in the tie. A big crowd turned up, in the sun, to the Ice Dome to see hostilities renewed!  

First Period: The first period showed that this new Phoenix team will not be bullied on the ice. Flaten and Kuulivainen have strength and skill. Schnabel on D is a monster and can make players turn with the shake of a head. McKenzie looks just as good as he did playing for Telford. The Phoenix look good, but a little rusty when compared to Sheffield. The Steeldogs, who had played 3 games before coming into the series, looked at full speed. The Phoenix were a bit down on their best so maybe 70%. That being said it was another physical encounter. Not too many clear chances being created but Sheffield, probably, had the better of the first period.  

Second Period: The second continued where the first left off but, with the Phoenix upping their game. The Phoenix slowly began to get through the Sheffield D, but only long range shots or shots from the side. The Sheffield defence is as organised this year, it seems, as they were last year. Sheffield began to offer less and less going forward but were, stubbornly, hold the Phoenix at bay. The second period passed with no goals, Sheffield still ahead on aggregate.

Third Period: For the third period, see the second. The Phoenix continued to pile on the pressure but still not clear cut chances emerged. As much as they tried they could not get through and get a decent chance on Dimitri in the Sheffield goal. As time ticked down the Steeldogs held on for the win and claimed the rose bowl. Celebrating like they had won the stanley cup!  

Verdict: I cannot begrudge the Steeldogs the bowl, they got the lead in Sheffield and worked hard to keep it. Sheffield will not surprise any EPL fan with their 2012/13 output. Remember how they played last season, there doing the same again. Sheffield will not score alot of goals but they will concede even less. Also, for any EPL fan thinking, now Bowns has gone the door to Sheffield's goal has now swung open, you'll be surprised. They will be as tough to score against again this season. As for the Phoenix, this team may not be as flashy as teams gone past but they will be tough, quicker and hard working. There were plenty of positives to come from sunday's game, im disappointed to lose the competition but, there are bigger cups to win!

Attendance: Really good crowd in the Ice Dome, especially as this one was not on the season ticket. I'll say about 1,100 in for the derby game

Phoenix 2 Sheffield 3 on aggregate - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 2 Sheffield 3 on aggregate - Steeldogs Article

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

EPL 2011/12 Season Review - The Forwards

After a long delay its finally time to draw  a line under the 2011-12 season. Hilariously enough just a few short weeks before the new season starts! My excuse is ive had a busy summer. One long haul holiday to the other side of the world, getting engaged and another trip away on business. Anyway all that is over and, aside from wedding planning, it's time to get back into hockey mode. So, without further ado, lets have a look at the forwards who, almost, fired the Phoenix to back to back league titles!

Number 2, James Archer
James was one of a couple of players who took a few games to get it going in the EPL, that being said once he did get going he was his usual self. A fine hockey player who would enhance any roster he played on. James played the season tough and chipped in with good points throughout the year. The stats will show he was down on the previous season but, a groin injury - which he played through for the rest of the year, didn't help. Along with the entire Phoenix roster being on the physio table at one point or another. James is a player who I, and many other Phoenix fans, would hate to loose, and being a Sheffield lad, one I hope we don't!

The Budgie Rating 6.5/10 

Number 9, Tony Hand
If you look at Tony's career, 2011-12 will go down as his worst! Despite this Tony still averaged more than a point per game and his loss, was a major factor in the Phoenix relinquishing their grip on the EPL title. Injured half way through the season with a fractured ankle, which then took a very long time to heal, the Phoenix missed his creativity and leadership on the ice. When Tony did return to the ice in the flickering embers of the league campaign, it was amazing to see that, even at less than 100% he was still better than just about anyone else on the ice in the EPL! Tony was excellent, having him bench coach must have given him a view of his future, now more than ever Tony faces a massive question. Do I play on? For me, I hope he does!

The Budgie Rating 8/10 

Number 14, Stephen Wallace
Looking at the stats last season was a bit under par for Wally, my favourite player for the past couple of seasons Wally took a couple of games to get going, then a cruel wrist injury hampered the rest of his season. A player, for whom stick handling and skill is such a big part of his game, this was always going to impinge on his point production and effectiveness. Wallace is a player I would never tire of watching and would dearly love to have him back icing for the Phoenix but he has chose to return to Billingham. The move is a logical one for Wally, that's where he is from after all! Good luck Wally, The Angry Budgie and all Phoenix fans wish you the best!

The Budgie Rating 7.5/10 

Number 19, Tom Duggan
Tom's second season in Manchester was a real breakout season for the young lad. His best point production of his pro career Tom has cemented himself as a key player for the Phoenix. Another player who could walk into any EPL side, if the Phoenix were to loose him we would struggle. He really provides the energy behind the third line more often than not putting his body on the line. Only missing four games of the season Tom was one of the lucky few who stayed relatively healthy through the year. Scoring 5 points in the post season push Tom was a big factor in the Phoenix making it to the last day of the season in Coventry. Had we had a full roster for the season, his effort would have been rewarded with a shiny pot!

The Budgie Rating 9/10 

Number 29, Martin Cingel
Martin came to the Phoenix with a great pedigree, Martin single handily kept Edinburgh competitive for 9 years. So, in the EPL on the same line with Tony Hand, it was going to work out...right? Too right it did, his past season he nearly doubled his point production and recorded a career year. Martin was never the flashiest or, made the most noise, but he was effective. Im not sure on the likelihood of a second season, Cingel put up the points but, could the money bring in a better import? Either way Martin had a good year and stayed healthy throughout 2011-12, he should get a medal or something!

The Budgie Rating 8.5/10 

Number 71, Josh Ward
Josh had somewhat of a legacy to live up to. Coming to the Phoenix from the Panthers he follows Rob Lachowicz and James Neil in crossing to the Phoenix. His season, he never really stood out for me. He certainly works hard but his contribution on the third line wasn't quite enough. He is a player who will not be returning to the Phoenix as he has signed up for the Panthers. While I hope he can emulate Lacho's success, I cant see it myself. He was good, not great, at EPL level so I cant see him breaking in to an EIHL side this year. Personally he needs another year or two at EPL level before he will be ready! But, having said that, best of luck Josh!

Number 74, Slava Koulikov
Having come to the Phoenix from Slough to cut down on his commuting Dave Koulikov was quickly embraced by the Phoenix faithful for his positive attitude and 100% effort on the ice. I was really really happy when Slava signed for us, he was one of the EPL stars I wished played for my team. Slava contributed in a big way to the Phoenix second line and, had he played a full season, he could well have had another big year in terms of points. Definite re-sign for me! Sadly this won't happen, I had hoped, the reason for Slava coming to us, or one of them, was it would offer him a chance to play closer to home in Hull. Next season he will return to Slough, which defeats the point of that, but, he returns as player coach! Fair enough really! Thank you and good luck Slava, except for the 6 games against the Phoenix!

The Budgie Rating 6/10 

Number 89, Ciaran Long
Another debutante for the Phoenix Ciaran came to the Phoenix from the Bison. Ciaran is a player who I have admired in the EPL so he was another I was happy to see pull on the Phoenix jersey. Ciaran is one tough cookie and a guy who added much needed grit and determination to the Phoenix third line. A player who also became a fan favourite he would give his all every shift! For a tall skinny fella he can pack a punch, for many a fan his stand-out moment was winding Payette up in our playoff semi-final, taking him on and laughing his head off! Top marks fella!

The Budgie Rating 8/10 

Number 91, Juraj Faith
The final import signing of last summer is traditionally the sniper. Faith came to the Phoenix with that billing and expectation. For some Phoenix fans it took a while to warm up to Juraj but for me, I liked him. Despite his age Juraj had masses of pace, a wicked wrist shot and a wise hockey brain. A centre man who, because we already had Tony Hand, had to play on the wing many fans thought he struggled, and only came into his own with Tony out injured. There was some truth to that, with both on the ice there could be a few too many passes, but the puck would eventually go in the net. Juraj impressed me but he is not to have a second season in Mancheser. He returns to the team he played for in Germany EHC Freiburg this time in the German third tier.

The Budgie Rating 8.5/10 

Saturday, 30 June 2012

EPL 2011/12 Season Review - The Defence

Number 4 - Luke Boothroyd (GP54 Pts 21)Still only 25, it seems Luke has been around forever! Since his debut for the Hull Stingrays in the old BNL Luke has now played over 360 professional games of hockey. Captain fantastic over half of those for the Phoenix. Like is an elder statesman of the Phoenix roster and the past season has been one of his best. Despite his size he is one of the best defenceman on the EPL and one of the few EPL players who could easily hold his own in the import heavy EIHL. The great thing with Luke is, you know he will play his best every game and, when he does, you don't notice it! He does his job without fanfare he just gets on and does it! The 2011/12 season is a high for him with 4 goals, including one special shot from the red line! I posed the question last year, on whether the Phoenix should retied the number 44 shirt for Harabin, on reflection the number 4 is probably the next shirt retirement for the Phoenix.
Season rating: 9/10

Number 10 - Ryan Johnson (GP53 Pts 8)

Ryan is a veteran of the EPL and has divided his recent seasons between the Phoenix and the Steeldogs. Ryan is a simple kind of player, he's not the tallest but he's one of the toughest. Build like the proverbial brick outhouse Ryan is one hell of a player to try and move. He will never light up the scoring charts but he will work hard and make life for the opposition difficult. The past season had seen him play in the utility role playing, primarily on D, but helping out the forwards where necessary. Would I have him back next year? Depends on our budget and who we have signed up, I would take Ryan back but, with the caveat that I would try and upgrade his position.
Season rating: 6/10

Number 12 - James Neil (GP54 Pts 20)

One of the best loved players on the Phoenix roster James is a player who arrived as a forward but has become an intelligent defenceman. The past year has seen James come on along way in his development, learning from the likes of Spelda/Boothroyd he is no longer a weak link. Despite only being 22 James has played nearly 340 professional games of hockey, astonishing for such a young guy. Much like Luke Boothroyd James is not a big guy, but uses his mind with great effectiveness. Which more experience and help from the older guys on D he could become a great EPL defenceman. The 2011/12 season saw James put up his best points total for the Phoenix so I would expect next season to be even better!
Season rating: 7.5/10

Number 15 - Ben Wood (GP53 Pts 9)

Ben Wood is a prime example of why the Phoenix moved to the EPL. He is a guy who has progressed through the ranks of the Phoenix since joining from the Flintshire Freeze. Jake Nurse will be hoping to emulate Ben as he begins his Phoenix career next season. Ben's game is based on confidence and the past year will have done wonders for him. A tall and very strong player Ben is played in the utility role like Ryan. More often on offence Ben is, and has always been, a defenceman. But the past year has seen his hockey sense develop so much. He car read the game better now, place himself on the ice more effectively and is more than willing to get into the corners and battle for the puck. He is also more than happy to take a shot when he can, most of his 6 goals from last season were shots taken through traffic. I really enjoy watching Ben play the game, his enthusiasm is infectious and he is a player I would have back every year! The 2012/13 season will be his fourth full season and should see him pass 200 games for the Phoenix.
Season rating: 7/10

Number 26 - Jaroslav Spelda (GP41 Pts31)

He's got the #moveslikespelda Jaro came to the Phoenix from Italian side Eppan/Appiano the big Czech defenceman excelled in his first season in England. Partnering Harabin as the Phoenix second import D Spelda exploded into the EPL with big hits and mahoosive slap shots! Having a career year Spelda has become a fan favorite and, I may even say this, in my opinion a better player than Ladislav Harabin. I would be delighted for Spelda to come back for a second season in Manchester. He was brilliant for the Phoenix and, when he had his injury mid season, it really affected the club and derailed our title push. I genuinely believe he could play in any EPL team and improve them which, is a big reason I hope he returns to the Phoenix!
Season rating: 9/10

Number 44 - Ladislav Harabin (GP51 Pts44)

Returning for his second season in Manchester Ladislav has had a good year but, possibly overshadowed a little by Spelda. That being said the Phoenix are a better team when he is on the ice. Where Spelda is the stay at home D man, Harabin likes to get forward and has a wicked shot. The past year has seen his best point production in his career and, at the age of 31, he has many more to come. The past year was blighted a little, opposition fans will say this, by Harabin's tendency to embellish calls. Of his 54 penalty minutes im sure most were for diving or clipping. If he returns I hope he can work on this side of his game as everything else is excellent. He is another tough D man and possesses an awesome shot. I would have Harabin back in a heart beat.....unless we can get a second Spelda! If he does return, I just hope he can have an injury free season for us as neither of his past two has seen him play the full compliment of games! Like Spelda, the Phoenix miss his presence on the ice.
Season rating: 8/10

Number xx - John Connolly (GP4 Pts 0)

Very much a journey man kind of player, Connolly came to the Phoenix from the Slough Jets and really helped out the Phoenix defence at a time we were struggling for bodies. A small player John is much in the mould of Luke Boothroyd. An intelligent player who can use his stick to play defence and a player who is willing to mix it up in the corners. John only player 4 games for the Phoenix but I remember being impressed by him!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

EPL 2011/12 Season Review - The Goalies

So, it's about time I got round to posting my 2011/12 season reviews! As is customary the goalies are up first!

Number 31 - Steve Fone )GAA 3.06 Sv% .901)

This past season was a chance to Steve Fone to really cement his place as one of the EPL's top goalies. His first full season with the Phoenix he was still earning his starting goalie spurs, his second season was blighted by a shoulder injury but, thankfully, this past season just gone was injury free. I really think Foney did well this year, the Phoenix have/never will be a defence first team. By that very nature our goalies will face more shots than others. Fone has developed into a very athletic goaltender and one who can see the puck through traffic. Every now and then he still likes to go on a wander from the crease, how I wish he wouldn't, but he has a better understanding of when to do that and when not to. While his season stats are a little high for an elite goaltender we all know stats don't make a player. Other EPL fans will argue there are better goalies out there but, Fone is one of the best and, in all reality, the best the Phoenix can get! Season rating: 8.5/10

Number 35 - George El-Hage (GAA 4.46Sv % .833)

The backup EPL netminder, not the most desired of positions! This post has, in the past, been filled by Adam Summerfield, since he left to take up a post with the RAF the baton has been passed to George El-Hage. George is a big guy, young, and has great potential. Over the past season he has had limited chances on the ice, but he played more minutes this past season than any backup nettie the Phoenix has had. On the ice he looks to stay cool and can cover a great deal of the net. If he is willing to bide his time, for the moment, George has the potential to become an EPL starter. Season rating: 6/10

Next up...the D men!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Desert Dogs-a-Howlin - Stanley Cup Western Conference Final

The Coyotes post season adventure continues and the ride currently runs to the Conference finals and a matchup with the NHL's form team right now, the LA Kings. Having nocked out the number 1 and 2 seeds the Kings were eyeing up the number 3 seeded Coyotes, for what would be a tough series. The Kings are blessed with some hot goaltending and some depth scoring. The Coyotes would have to work very hard and continue with their defence first mentality.

v Kings (L)
Having the first two games on home ice would, usually, be an advantage! Against the Kings this isn't the case, the Kings are hot away from the Staples Centre and this game would be no different. The Kings fought hard and with a relentless forecheck loaded Smith with shots. By the end of the game Smith had faced 48 shots, Dustin Brown lead the way with one goal and one assist and with Quick in outstanding form the Kings took game one by a score of 4-2.

v Kings (L)
Losing the first game was not the way the Coyotes wanted to start their maiden conference final effort, but the Kings, in their current form, were not willing to let up. The Kings offence overpowered the Coyotes and their special teams were on fire as the King's shutout the Coyotes 4-0 to take a strong 2-0 lead in the western conference finals. In this form the Kings are irresistible sadly, for us Coyotes fans. It is going to take a big big effort for the coyotes to come back from the brink.

@ Kings (L)
Down 2 games to 0 and heading back to southern California things are looking bleak for Phoenix. The game saw Phoenix make a better start and score first through Langkow early in the second period. The Kings came right back though, and Anze Kopitar tied the game just about two minutes later. The Kings continued to outwork the Coyotes and their domination in the third period lead, un-surprisingly, to their second and the game winner Dwight King scoring the wrister early in the third period. The Kings now stood one game away from another series sweep.

@ Kings (W)
One final game? One last chance? The Coyotes had to be better! If the unlikely journey was to continue this was a must win for the Coyotes. The players obviously thought so too and the big game guys stood tall and were counted. Shane Doan lead the way with two goals, Mike Smith recorded his first shutout of the series and the Coyotes took one step back from the cliff and recorded a 2-0 win to send the series back to the desert. The Coyotes effort broke the Kings eight game winning streak and showed there were signs of life in the Coyotes.

v Kings (L-OT)
Another must win for the Coyotes back in Glendale. Despite their best efforts the game would be decided on a moment of controversy and one that would see the organisation and many players investigated by the NHL for some of their post game comments. The Kins were victorious in Phoenix and in doing so have become only the second team to nock out the top three seeds in a post season run. The 'moment' occurred during OT when Brown, leading with a knee, took out Phoenix player Michal Rozsival who lay injured on the ice. The ensuing play saw the Kings score, take the win and with it the Western Conference championship. More importantly a spot in the Stanley Cup Final. Its a shame for a game to be decided on poor officiating but, these series are not decided over one game!

@ Kings   (not needed)

v Kings   (not needed)

So the Coyotes dream run is over, it hurts to go out so cheaply but the Coyotes have proved the doubters wrong in getting this far! My hope is for the Devils to now take the Cup!