The Phoenix had a rare double home weekend this past saturday/sunday the first half of which served as the EPL Cup first leg against the Guildford Flames. The winner of the tie would go on to face the Sheffield Steeldogs in the two legged final, after they emerged from their double with MK with a single goal scored over their 6 periods of play. The Steeldogs present a tough challenge for either the Phoenix or the Flames but each side had their own 6 period semi-final to play. So far this season the Flames have a 3-2 series lead over the Phoenix and both sides are pretty evenly matched. One thing is for certain, as every game versus Guildford has been, the following 6 periods of hockey will be great adverts for the sport.
First Period: As befitting all previous games between the two clubs the early exchanges were pretty even and played at a fast pace. The Phoenix possibly edging the first session. In a testament to how evenly matched both clubs are and, how important the next 6 periods of play are, neither team could make the breakthrough. Both goaltenders putting in a fine performance keeping the offensive fire-power on the ice quiet. Neither side could create clear cut chances and, possibly, the best chance of the period fell to Andrew Sharp of the Flames. It's possible anyone else would have scored, the puck found Sharp on the far post in acres of space, his tame shot was well saved by Fone's leg pad. Credit to Sharp for finding space though!
Second Period: The second continued where the first left off, both sides playing fast and hard hockey with goaltenders up to the job. The Flames would draw first blood in the scoring stakes when new boy (or old boy really) Jozef Kohut fired the Flames into the lead, scoring at 35min 14sec. The goal didn't not ignite the Flames and the contest remained tight. Both sides creating a number of chances, though few were clear cut. A few off passes by either side just took the shine off a number of moves which, on another day, would have resulted in goals. Equally frustrating was the referee, being totally inconsistent for both teams.
Third Period: This is where the game got going! If the Phoenix are to go through to the final then a close score would be needed. A win would be ideal, but the Phoenix couldn't head south with a deficit. Their record in Guildford this season is not great so history is not on their side. The Phoenix got off to the best possible start by scoring an early goal with Archer continuing his fine form of late with a goal at 43min 19sec. Guildford veteran David Longstaff put the Flames back ahead at 52min 48sec only for Ciaran Long to tie the game less than a minute later. The 2-2 goal coming at 53min 39sec. The period ran out with neither side able to find a leading goal.
Verdict: A great game to watch and one the Flames will be the happier camp. Im sure the Phoenix would have preferred to be taking a lead down to the Spectrum a tie boils it down to a winner takes all game. The Phoenix worked hard and, on balance, deserved a lead, a one goal lead would, probably, have been the fairest result. Credit to Guildford though, they are not at the top of the table for no reason! They work hard and, when passes connect, can be a great team to watch. The Phoenix have the tougher task in the 2nd leg, getting a result in Guildford, but stranger things have happened!
Attendance: A little disappointing for a cup semi-final I have to admit, i'd guess at around 7-800 in the Ice Dome.
Phoenix 2 Guildford 2 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 2 Guildford 2 - Guildford Flames
Phoenix 2 Guildford 2 - CB Sport