The second weekend double header saw the Phoenix take on the Swindon Wildcats, the first game of the weekend saw the Phoenix make the long trip south along the M6 and M5 to Wiltshire, to an ice rink where the Phoenix have struggled this season. The Wildcats are a much improved side this year and a tricky opposition to play. This game would, sadly, be no different for the Phoenix. Early in the game the Phoenix found them selves a couple of goals adrift and never really recovered. In the end Swindon ran out 6-3 winners.
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