After the #phoenixtrain's momentary stop after the loss in Guildford, thursday night saw a chance to get the train rolling again. The visitors, the Sheffield Steeldogs. A team the Phoenix need no introduction too! Sheffield are a team who like to play physical hockey and, on many occasion, dirty hockey. If there is one team that sums up the darker side of the game its Sheffield. Led by the EPL's chief aggitator/good (depending on your viewpoint_ Andre Payette they are a tough nut to crack. Thursday nights game saw the Steeldogs give debut's to new import, and Ozonlins fellow Latvian countryman Raivis Kurnigins. The Steeldogs also welcomed Sheffield academy player Shaun Wild who will step up from U18 level and ice for the Steeldogs for the remained of the season.
So many questions going into the game, Was the Phoenix train having problems in the station? Is Sheffields new Latvian a taller Ozolins? and, how bad would the ref be?
First Period: In typical fashion the game began physcial, loads of hits and hard work filled the first period, if no goals did. Both teams were working hard to close the opposition down as early as possible. Both sets of defence keeping their centre ice clear and clearing all the rebounds given out by the keepers. Sheffield (really Payette/G Wood) looked to target the likes of Duggan and Harabin early on. Trying to draw them into penalties, but with no success. In fact, it was quite amusing watching Payette getting so wound up. Why does he always target players who are smaller than him? Who knows! The period ended with no goals and only a few clear cut chances for either side. But with both goalies being too good for straight on shots. The Phoenix/Steeldogs would have to be a bit more clever.
Second Period: In all honesty, much of what I said above also applied to the second period. No goals, lots of physical play, some shocking decisions from the ref, both in calls made but more those he missed. Also, some terrible linesman decisions too! A trend began to appear in the second too, I don't think we got through one faceoff without it being blown dead instantly and reset. I don't remember it happening so often in one game. Sheffield will probably regret two of the chances that came their way in the second period. On two occasions they had breakaway opportunities only for Foney to stonewall them both times. He really stood tall for the Phoenix and showed he is playing with so much confidence right now.
Third Period: Scoreless after 40mins of hockey something would have to give eventually. I don't think many in the Ice Dome wanted to still be there at midnight! The breakthrough came after 43mins when Tom Duggan drove to the net and forced home his own rebound underneath Ben Bowns. The Ice Dome erupted and the deadlock was broken. This really spurred the Phoenix on and they slowly began to exert some control over the Steeldogs. If the first goal was scrappy, the second was lucky! After a bit of a melee round Bowns goal the puck broke to the right to Ciaran Long who span round, and whipped a backhand on goal. Bowns got a piece of the puck, only to deflect it onto the crossbar and into the goal. Hey, you need luck sometimes! Andre called a time-out to regroup and push for some goals. In the 51st minute some lovely play from the Phoenix saw Koulikov break in on goal and unleash a monster of a slapshot past Ben Bowns making the score 3-0 Phoenix. Shortly after a nasty incident happend to Ben Bowns in the Sheffield goal. After a Phoenix attack and subsequent scrum it appeared a Sheffield play,accidentally, hit Bowns in the throat, which left him needing medical attention. Thankfully Ben got up and skated back to the bench under his own steam. With backup netminder Dimitri Zimozdra in goal and being up 3-0 the Phoenix eased off and saw out the game giving Fone a deserved shutout!
Verdict: I always enjoy a win over Sheffield, it shows you can win a game without resorting to the dark arts. Sheffield play hard, but I despise the way they play the game. A hard fought win and one that gets the #phoenixtrain rolling once more!
Attendance: Midweek games never do much to generate a big crowd, but a decent turnout saw to a good atmosphere. I would say maybe 7-800 in the Ice Dome.
Phoenix 3 Sheffield 0 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 3 Sheffield 0 - CB Sport
Phoenix 3 Sheffield 0 - Steeldogs Article