The Angry Budgie Live
Saturday, 31 March 2012
Of EPL league hockey for 2011/12 that is! With the league title sewn up there are still some interesting battles to be had this weekend. The main points I wanted to focus on in this post were the battle for 2nd/3rd/4th and the race for 8th!
The battle for 2nd/3rd/4th......
Or after last weekends results should that be the battle for 3rd? The Phoenix hold second place with a three point gap back the Steeldogs, needing only a point to secure it I see that happening in the Phoenix back to back against Peterborough this weekend. So that's why I think it's more a battle for second! So..the contenders?
Sheffield Steeldogs, current holders of third place face a final weekend home to the Bracknell Bees and a trip to Guildford on the final day of the season. The series between the Dogs and the Jets is tied at three a piece, and the goal difference is, currently, in Slough's favour. Which adds a little spice to the last pair of games! Both are winnable for the Dogs, but they can be their own worst enemy. Their style of hockey can come back to.....ahem....bite them on their ass! With such a physical way of playing the game the Dogs will pick up penalties. Against the Bees, who will be hungry to secure that 8th and final playoff berth, and the Flames at home with their potent offence its this syle of play that could be their un-doing.
versus the Bees, I can see the Dogs winning this one though, with 3 of the 5 games played so far going to penalties or OT, this one could very well go the extra distance. Then it's a lottery as to who gets the extra point!
versus the Flames, with the league title sewn up you'd expect the Dogs could win this. They could, but I don't think they will! The Flames are on a run of two losses at the moment, I cant see their pride/professionalism allowing them to loose their last game of the season on home ice.
Slough Jets, the Jets bring their 2011/12 campaign to a close with an away/home series with the MK Lightning, a team that has struggled for consistency this year. But one that does posses some quality in their ranks. MK also have the upper hand in the series with the Jets so far. leading 3-1 and having a perfect record against the Jets in Milton Keynes. The Lightning are safe in 5th but can catch the Jets with a 4 point weekend, so their is motivation there for both the Lightning and Jets! Should be a cracking pair of games then!
Jets @ Lightning, I can see this going into OT but a win for MK in the end.
Jets v Lightning, with the offensive power of Calder/Pliskauskas on home ice I think the Jets will take this in regulation.
The important question.....who will get 3rd? After all that I think the Jets can get enough points for 3rd place.
The race for 8th.....
It's a straight dogfight between the Bees and the Peterborough Phantoms for the chance to play the Flames in the playoff quarters. With only one point in it this could go all the way and be decided on head to heads or goal difference! As it stands in the head to head the Phantoms have it 4-2 so the Bees need to secure it with points, they cant worry about anything else.
The Bees, current holders of 8th, it's always better to be in the position than not! So that instantly gives them the advantage going into the weekend. The face the Steeldogs in Sheffield and the Wildcats back at the Hive. as covered above I think the Bees will lose in Sheffield but will get a point from the game. At home to Swindon, that's another toughie to predict. The Wildcats are hitting form at just the right time, but games between the two have generally been tight affairs. The game v Swindon will probably go to OT again and as the Bees won the last home game against Swindon in OT i'll give the Bees the W.
The Phantoms, well other than a double header against the Flames the Phantoms have the next toughest series, against the Phoenix! That being said, it was the Phantoms that put the Phoenix championship celebrations on ice this time last year defeating the Phoenix. So their is previous there for a Phantoms home win. With the Phoenix not looking to win a league title in Peterborough this game is instantly different. The Phoenix hold a 3-1 series lead against the Phantoms and won the last game down in Peterborough. As the Phantoms are scrapping for 8th I can see this going into OT and, I might give the Phantoms the win. The return in Altrincham I think will be different. The Phoenix will want to round off the season in style at home some im giving the Phoenix the win on home ice.
The important question.....who will get 8th?
The Bees in my opinion. It is always better to be in that place on the leader board going into any weekend, especially the last. Plus the Phantoms have the toughest pair of games.
That's that, I bet all the above is a load of rubbish really! But hey that's half the fun!
Come back next week for a Phoenix v Phantoms game review and some playoff predictions!
Thursday, 29 March 2012
The Phoenix had been faltering a little of late, so the result saturday night was pleasing as it showed the Phoenix could go into a tough rink and get a result. A tight 5-4 victory ensure the Phoenix got the weekend off to a good start. With Sheffield and Slough winning, two points in Swindon were a must. The Flames slipped up and lost at home to the Bees, bit of a championship hangover? Possibly, but probably more the Bees desire to secure that last playoff spot!
Going into sundays game the Phoenix were within 6 points of the Flames, the tantalising proposition was, beat the Flames and the Phoenix could.....could end the season tied at the top! Only if the Flames continued their loosing run.....unlikely! A sunny sunday saw a bumper crowd turn out at the Ice Dome for another instalment of Phoenix/Flames hockey. For the rest of this review, I want you to be humming 'Through the Fire and Flames' by DragonForce!
First Period: The game kicked off with a recognition and a big cheer for the Flames becoming EPL champions, a classy move and, with the way the Phoenix faithful responded, one that makes me proud to be a Phoenix fan! Throughout the initial exchanges the Phoenix looked good, a glimpse of what may have been had we a full roster all season! They were quick, passes were crisp and the home side managed to carve out the majority of chances throughout the period. Only to find Mark Lee in bloody good form in the Flames goal. That being said, Guildford were not out of it, they showed how dangerous they can be on the break and their superior strength in depth. No goals came from the period, but the fast paced hockey was a joy to watch.
Second Period: For the Phoenix it was a case of, do what you did in the first, the goals will come! The home faithful were rewarded when Juraj Faith got the scoreboard moving with a sweet goal at 27min 07sec. That lead was doubled 90sec later when the hard working Josh Ward persevered around the net to score the Phoenix second, that one coming at 28min 44sec. The Phoenix third came on a powerplay, after a few false starts the Phoenix got set up in the Flames zone and began to cycle the puck. Eventually it made it back to Spelda on the point who unleashed a bomb on Lee and the puck just went right through him! That goal timed at 35min 03sec. With the score 3-0 Phoenix the Flames woke up and found their scoring boots! Both times capitalising on powerplay opportunities, in the space of 2 minutes spanning the period break the Flames were right back in it, and the Phoenix fans were wondering how the Phoenix grip on the game had been loosened. The Flames first came from Kohut at 38min 27sec and..........
Third Period: .....their second came 42sec into the third period when Melicherik capitalised on some poor Phoenix defense. So a 3-2 hockey game with the majority of the third period to go. Game on! With Sheffield and Slough both staring losses in the face this was an ideal game for the Phoenix to lock up second place. thankfully calm heads were found on the Phoenix bench and the next goal would come for the home side. Martin Cingel getting a powerplay goal at 42min 15sec to calm frayed nerves. The insurance goal came midway through the session when Cingel, again, scored to make it 5-2 Phoenix at 49min 45sec. It was this point where the game began to ease off, the game won, thoughts in both camps started to look towards the playoffs.
Verdict: My view on the game can be summed up by, what I said on the podcast and on twitter, 'I so enjoy these games of HOCKEY'! In truth the motivation wasn't there for the Flames...they didn't 'need' the win but the Phoenix did! That being said the Phoenix deserved the two points, I just hope the newbies in the big crowd were sold on hockey! That game was a great advert for it!
Attendance: Biggest crowd of the season, i'd say around 1,800 in the Ice Dome.
Phoenix 5 Guildford 2 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 5 Guildford 2 - Flames Article
Phoenix 5 Guildford 2 - CB Sport
Thursday, 22 March 2012
Monday, 19 March 2012
Last weekends pair of games saw the Phoenix take on a Telford Tigers double header, with the home game in Altrincham on the saturday. While the Tigers are rooted to the foot of the EPL table, their performances against the Phoenix show a team that is anything but! In Declan Ryan they have one of the best keepers in the EPL and he gives them a chance to win every game. The weekend would be the second in a row where the Phoenix have faced very tough lower league opposition, after splitting their previous weekend against the Wildcats.
So roll up roll up we have a saturday night of hockey action at the Altrincham Ice Dome!
First Period: I think it would be fair to say most people in the Ice Dome (Tigers fans excepted) expected the Phoenix to win, and win well. The first period certainly showed this would be a tough game and a tough weekend. Much like Swindon the weekend before the Tigers worked very hard. They closed down the Phoenix in the Tigers zone, kept the hashmarks clear and cleared the rebounds to frustrate the Phoenix. The Phoenix finally found the break through when Tony Hand scored his first since his return at 13min 27sec. No further goals came in the period, even though most of the play was in the Tigers zone.
Second Period: Much like the firs with Telford frustrating and the Phoenix unable to set up in front of net. The second, though, would see Telford come into the game, through their hard work and an increasing number of Phoenix errors. The sloppy errors were stray passes and lapses in concentration. The Tigers got on the board at 27min 35sec when 7 scored. The period continued and their was definite frustration growing in the stands as the Phoenix failed to force their dominance on the game. The Phoenix would take the lead though, when Ciaran Long scored at 35min 11sec. That lead was short lived them 77 scored for the Tigers 3 minutes later at 38min 06sec.
Third Period: After such a poor second period it really was all to play for in the final 20! To be honest I wasn't confident! The period continued like the game had to date with the Phoenix having the greater puck possession but clear cut scoring chances were few and far between. In the end the game would come down to a moment of skill. Stephen Wallace got the puck down low and managed to lift it over Ryan to give the Phoenix the lead at 43min 43sec. The Tigers pulled Ryan with a minute to go for the extra attacked but the Phoenix held on. Faith adding the empty net insurance goal with 1sec to go.
Verdict: Not a vintage performance from the Phoenix, but a win secured! A valuable win against a tough Telford team. The win also saw the Phoenix make up ground on the Flames due to their loss in Slough. It wasnt pretty, but the Phoenix got the job done!
Attendance: A good saturday night crowd, i'll guess at 1,200 in the ice Dome
Phoenix 4 Telford 3 - CB Sport
Sunday saw the Phoenix head down to Shropshire for the return fixture. The Phoenix faced another tough examination by the Tigers but were able to secure another win.
Sunday, 11 March 2012
v Sharks (W)
The month began with the Coyotes taking on the San Jose Sharks, one of the teams Phoenix will be battling with for play off position in the pacific division. Going into this game the Coyotes had lost to the Ducks with Mike Smith giving up 4 goals on 18 shots. Something had to give, and the bit back began against the Sharks. Smith redeemed himself stopping 32 shots to give the Coyotes a good base and Korpikoski gave the Coyotes the offensive punch they needed getting a pair of goals. Raffi Torres and Hanzal each chipped in with a goal and Radim Vrbata ensured the Coyotes got February off to the best start they could with the empty net insurance goal.
v RedWings (W)
The Wings are a team the Coyotes always struggle with, and always seem to meet in the playoffs. With Hanzal and Gordon back in the lineup the Coyotes were balanced and finally were able to solve their Wings problem. Smith gave the Coyotes another good based to start with, a great 30 save effort and the Coyotes finally got the offence to beat the Wings. Gordon getting things off the best of starts with a short handed effort early on. With each team trading a goal in the second period it came down to an Empty Netter to seal the points for the Coyotes. With Hanzal getting the insurance with less than 30sec to go.
@ Stars (W)
The Coyotes made the short...ish trip south to Texas to take on the Stars and hope to get much needed points off a division rival. Mike Smith continued his great form with a 28 shot save effort and with the Phoenix scoring spread over 10 players the Coyotes got a deserved win against the Stars. Yandle got the Coyotes train rolling and goals from Vrbata and Torres kept it moving before Derek Morris got his first of the season to add the icing on top. Lhetonen in goal for the Stars had a worrying moment stopping a slap shot with his head, credit to him he stayed in the game for the Stars. For the Phoenix Yandle left the game during the third with a lower body injury but nothing too serious.
v Flames (W)
The Coyotes returned to the Desert to take on the Calgary Flames, having been back in 12th place just a week ago, the Coyotes recent hard work has seen them return to the playoff hunt. With Mike Smith putting in another impressive performance between the pipes, Phoenix were able to beat another playoff contender and extend their recent winning run. Taylor Pyatt got the Coyotes on the board first, but Olli Jokinen pegged them back. With the game going into OT the Coyotes were guaranteed at least a point but, one thing that typifies this Coyotes team is hard work and a will to win. This was evident when Shane Doan scored a one time shot with just 1min 53sec in OT to give the Coyotes the W!
v Blackhawks (W)
Perhaps all the omens coming into this game were giving the Coyotes the edge before it began. Three weeks prior the Blackhawks had the best record in the NHL, one week ago the Coyotes were 13 points behind Chicago and, with Mike Smith getting a shutout in this game. The tables have turned! With Jeremy Roenick in the house to be inducted to the Coyotes 'Ring of Honor' the Coyotes had a reason to play. Kyle Chupchura got things going with a fight less than two minutes into the game which got the, standing room only, crowd going. Vrbata and Gordon got the scoring going for the Phoenix and, after his earlier fight, Chipchura capped off his game with the Phoenix 3rd in a 3-0 shutout of the Blackhawks,
@ Canucks (L-SO)
The Coyotes winning run would be sorely tested on this visit to the cold north west and the Vancouver Canucks. A team boasting the offensive talent of the Sedin twins are almost always guaranteed to score. With LeBarbera giving Mike Smith a rest the Coyotes 5 game winning streak came to an end with a shootout loss to the Canucks. Yandle's eight goal of the season cancelled out Booth's earlier score for the Canucks. LeBarbera was left frustrated after conceding the game winner in the 6th round of shots. A sign of how fare this Yotes team has come is how frustrated they are with the loss. Any team would be pleased to get anything from Vancouver, but LeBarbera and the Coyotes were not. Still a loss was recorded but the leaderboard point total is kept ticking over!
@ Kings (W)
Heading back south along the pacific coast the Coyotes next stop was Staples Centre and the LA Kings. This game would not be pretty, each team are involved in the playoff race and this one would not be for the purists! Four fights and 40 penalty minutes in the opening period alone set the tone for the night. Maybe it was not a surprise that the game was settled by a solitary goal. Phoenix put up a big effort in the third period restricting LA to just four shots in the first 15 minutes and denied the Kings on their 6 on 4 advantage for the final 90 seconds. Mike Smith got his fourth shutout of the season and the red hot Vrbata's 27th of the season gave the Phoenix the win and got them back on winning ways.
v Stars (W-OT)
Over the past two weeks the mantra for the Coyotes has been simple! Mike Smith will do the shot stopping and Radim Vrbata will do the scoring! That formula has resulted in 15 points from the past eight games. Phoenix got on the board first with Mikkel Boedker scoring in the first period. Mike Smith ended the game with 30 saves and Vrbata got his 10th game winner with an overtime effort just 1min 15sec into the OT period, The Stars Michael Ryder scored an impressive mid air goal to tie the game but the Coyotes ground out another win, their second of the month against division rivals the Dallas Stars. A big crowd in the Jobing.com witness the legend Alice Cooper perform the ceremonial puck drop on Alice Cooper Bobblehead Night!
v Kings (W-SO)
After their previous 'Battle of Los Angeles' something wasn't right for Phoenix at the start of this game. A poor beginning saw the Coyotes 3-0 down after the first session. The Kings had goals from Doughty, Loktionov and Brown to give them a comfortable lead the Coyotes would have to show some desire and fight to get back into this game. The Coyotes got the perfect star in the second period with Vrbata getting a power play goal after 50 seconds! Shane Doan got his first of two in the period on the powerplay and his second came after Williams for the Kings had scored. Though the comeback was not complete the outlook on the game was far rosier than it had after the first! Vrbata is on fire at the moment and what a time to get his 30th of the season, with less than three minutes to go his 30th came on the poerplay and tied the game sending it to OT and penalties. In the third ound of the shoot out the experienced Ray Whitney secured the extra point for the Coyotes to keep the Coyotes train rolling.
@ Flames (W-SO)
In a month of pairs the Coyotes headed back north to Calgary to try and secure their second win over the Flames in a month. For the second game in a row the Coyotes had a poor first period where they found themselves down a pair of goals. Much like the Kings game the Coyotes determination and will to win would see them haul themselves back into the game. While the first was the Flames, the second was the Coyotes. Goals from Langkow and Doan brought them level and Whitney gave them the lead in the third. Jokinen tied it again on the PPG for the Flames and, with no goals in OT, the game would go to penalty shots. The second in a row for the Coyotes. It was down to Whitney again to score the game winner in the shootout and ensure another pair of points headed back to the desert.
@ Oilers (W)
At the beginning of the month the Coyotes looked to be falling out of the playoffs, this game and the win, saw them climb to the pacific division summit. Mike Smith backstopped the team with another superb effort turning aside 21 shots and the senior players putting up the offense the Coyotes beat Edmonton 3-1. The first period start gave the Coyotes the edge with goals from Ekman-Larsson and Whitney. Nugent-Hopkins got one back for the O's but Shane Doan got his 20th of the season towards the end of the third to secure another win.With the win the Coyotes swept Alberta to head home to the desert.
v Canucks (W-SO)
After losing a shootout in Vancouver this was a chance for the Coyotes to exact revenge and cap an amazing February. In a sign of how hot the Coyotes currently are, even the NHL's best team could not stop them on home ice. Vancouver got the first goal of the game in the first period on the powerplay, but the Coyotes tied things up through Ray Whitney in the third. For the second time the extra 5min session couldn't separate either team and it was down to a goalie duel. However this time Mike Smith would emerge victorious, As he has so many times this month Ray Whitney scored on the shoot out and, with Boadker also scoring, the Coyotes rounded out February at the top of the Pacific division and a record of 11-0-1 month.
Saturday, 10 March 2012
All up to Altrincham on sunday for a bit of revenge then? With Guildford continuing to do well the Phoenix really have to secure second place. So sundays game was very important. We all settled in ready for some Wildcat revenge. The game would also, finally, see the return of Tony Hand to the ice.
First Period: The game began and the Wildcats looked to play physical from the off. This tactic was very reminiscent of the Bracknell Bees a week prior, and one teams tend to employ when they cannot play hockey with the Phoenix. Having said that the Phoenix looked sloppy in the early stages, not able to get into gear the Phoenix had many a stray pass and giveaways handing opportunities to Swindon. Tony Hand, back after 3 months out, looked out of sorts too and no where near up to match pace...yet. He began playing on the third line with Ciaran moving to the top line to replace Koulikov. The scoring began before everyone was settled, the Wildcats taking advantage of some sloppy passing to score after just 21 seconds. Nell getting his first of the night. The Phoenix were unable to settle into their usual rhythm but began to put pressure on the Swindon goal. That pressure finally came off when Tom Duggan scored on the powerplay at 8min 25sec. The Phoenix then took the lead after 17min 45sec when James Archer carried on his goal scoring form.
Second Period: This period would be a low point from the Phoenix and one that, almost, cost them the game. Another early goal from some sloppy play from Spelda gifted the puck to Nell who raced up ice to score on Fone just 53sec into the period. Swindon took a deserved lead half a minute later when Pinc made it 3-2 Swindon after 21min 28sec. With the fans in the stands stunned the Phoenix continued to struggle. A bright spot in the period came at 24min 24sec when Stephen Wallace was able to tie the game and give the home fans something to cheer about. Swindon re-took the lead when Richardson put them ahead after 26min 36sec. They extended that lead when Nell completed his hatrick after 28min 51sec. No further goals came in the period, which had to go down as one of the poorest the Phoenix have played all season. Passes were sloppy, we couldn't get into a rhythm and, after two periods, there only looked to be one winner!
Third Period: The proverbial rocket must have been used in the second intermission as the Phoenix came out and immediately reduced the arrears. Spelda, making up for his earlier mistake, unleashed a rocket from the blue line which went through the Swindon goalie. The hunger was there to see in the Phoenix and they, deservedly, tied the game two minutes later on the powerplay when Spelda, again, scored. The Phoenix continued to carve out chances but Swindon stood firm and the game was to go into overtime.
Overtime: With just 4 on 4 the game opened up more, which favoured the Phoenix. Still, early chances were turned away from both goalies. It would take a freak goal to separate the teams. The luck that had deserted the Phoenix for the majority of the game when Luke Boothroyd picked up the puck and launched a bobbling knuckle puck on the Swindon goal from the halfway line...to everyone's surprise it went in. The guy who hadn't scored in two years, only to break his duck a few games prior, notched his second in spectacular style and give the Phoenix the win. That goal coming at 62min 28sec.
Verdict: A poor game on the whole from the Phoenix. Many will point to the return of a very rusty Tony Hand which may have upset the lines. I think they fail to realise, with Koulikov out, he simply replaced him in the lineup! Yes he was rusty, but the man still got three assists on the night! That was just a poor night at the office for the Phoenix and one of those 'grind it out' type of results. That being said, if I were a Swindon fan, getting three points from a weekend against the Phoenix was very good, I would have wanted all 4! The Phoenix got off lightly and were fortunate in the end, but good teams can always do that!
Attendance: An average attendance for sunday night, so i'll guess around 1,000 came for the game
Phoenix 6 Swindon 5 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 6 Swindon 5 - Wildcats Article
Phoenix 6 Swindon 5 - CB Sport
Saturday, 3 March 2012
A decent crowd filled the Ice Dome and a hardy 4 away fans made the trip north.
First Period: The period began with the Phoenix dominating possession, however the Bees had brought their physical play and, backed up by Ambler in goal, were frustrating the Phoenix. It was clear the Bees did not want to play hockey with the Phoenix, but preferred the physical approach. Bit hits, chippy play and numerous after play infringements slowed the Phoenix. The Bees did not offer much going forward but did score the games first goal against the run of play. Jasik netting after 7min 43sec. Not to worry though, the Phoenix were creating chances they just needed a bit of luck for a goal. The goal did come, and came on the powerplay! In what would be a theme of the night! Ladislav Harabin, a 'favourite' of the Bees fans rifled a shot from the blue line levelling the game two mins after the Bees first marker. The period continued with the Phoenix trying to play hockey and the Bees frustrating with their physical play. A perfect road game you could argue!
Second Period: In reality the second played out just as the first had. The Bees kept running into penalty trouble affording the Phoenix numerous advantages. It was, again, a powerplay opportunity which gave the Phoenix the lead. James Archer continuing his rich vein of form scoring after 24min 45sec. Carl Graham, fast becoming the pantomime villain of the Bees, continued to ingratiate himself to the Phoenix faithful with his 'new' style of play. He seemed to pay alot of attention to Ciran Long, but Long was up to the job.
Third Period: The first 15mins of the period carried on much as above. But the last 5mins really started to get interesting. The Bees continue to contain the Phoenix in their own zone and going into the final two minutes began to press forward in search of a game tying goal. Things looked to have taken a decisive turn when Martin Masa scored at 58min 22sec almost guaranteeing the extra OT session. But, it would be the Bees indiscipline that would cost them, again! Shortly after the goal the Bees took an interference penalty which out the Phoenix on the advantage for the rest of regulation and, with just 18sec to go James Archer scored the game winner. The Ice Dome exploded and, on the final buzzer, so did the Bees tempers. A number of Bees players took penalties at the end of the game including a misconduct for firing the puck at an official. Poor losers!
Verdict: Not a game of hockey by anyone's imagination. More a brawl! The Bees had obviously decided they couldn't compete in a game of hockey, so played the rough physical type of game that Sheffield are famous for. Im so so glad the Phoenix adapted to it and ground out the win. Games against the Bees are one's we have to win to keep up the pressure on Guildford and, with the way they played the game, im glad they got no reward. Given how some of their players reacted on twitter after the game, its a shame the Bees name is tainted by their actions.
Attendance: Good crowd in, again with some groups, i'll say 1,200 in the Ice Dome
Phoenix 3 Bees 2 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 3 Bees 2 - Bees Article
Phoenix 3 Bees 2 - CB Sport