The Angry Budgie Live

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

A true Rollercoaster - EPL Finals Weekend 2012

As I write this im still exhausted from a roller coaster weekend in Coventry! The weekend truly had it all, the high's and low's, great times and not so great times. For me the weekend has been one of the best finals weekends ive had in hockey. Great games to watch, great banter and great friends to share the experiences with. So, without much further delay, here's my spiel and guff covering the four days of finals weekend!
Friday Myself, my better half and parents arrived in a sunny Coventry just after 3pm and quickly settled into our hotel. After grabbing some food a quick run round Coventry's finest (cough cough) shopping establishments we descended on the Old Windmill pub which, for the weekend, would become the Phoenix pub! It was great catching up with fellow Phoenix fan's and discussing how we thought saturday would pan out, and chatting with rival fans trying to decided who they would support. That night in the Windmill truly shows why hockey is a sport unique in this country.
Saturday After filling up on the hotel's all you can eat breakfast it was a short walk down to the Windmill for the first Phoenix Podcast live show. Taking over the front room Ben, ably assisted by producer Alex took to the helm for the show. Broadcasting across the world to over 250 people apparently, the show was well put together and good fun to be on. Myself, My Russell (off of Banners on the Wall), Tambo and others chatted through nearly 2hrs of show discussing the EPL and the showpiece finals weekend. With the show finally done and dusted it was time for everyone to decamp to the SkyDome for semi final number one.
Flames v Jets In my finals pre-view blog last week I picked the Flames to win this. With the SkyDome packed to the rafters EPL finals weekend got off to a noisy bang. During the first 30seconds an incident happened that would, ultimately, affect the Flames and their chances in this semi-final. With a Slough attack Mark Lee made a save from the advancing Jets attacker. As the attacker skated across Lee, Lee seemed to twist and fall down injured. A long period of treatment followed, but it was clear Lee could take no further part in the game. He was stretcher off and Hadfield was in the play the game. Quite an introduction for the backup netminder! This change didn't seem to hurt the Flames as they settled into their game and finished the first period 2-0 up.
From the second period onwards the Flames sat back and invited the Jets to come into the game, this would be their undoing. As the Jets confidence grew so did their goal threat. It felt like the Flames switched off and the Jets got right back into the game and took the lead and never looked back. i remember thinking, if I were a Flames fan, I would be so disappointed at how my team lost that game. Well on top but then completely switching off, obviously losing Lee so early didn't help, the Flames are good enough to cope! So, Slough through to the final, who would join them?
Phoenix v Steeldogs With nerves rising through the first semi-final it was time for the Phoenix to take on the Steeldogs. In my preview blog I couldn't call this as games between us have been tight feisty affairs. The game lived up to the hype and was a fantastic barn burner and a great one for the neutral. The Phoenix opened up the first period with a lot of physicality which surprised the Steeldogs. For the first and second period the Phoenix were on top and, at one point, were 5-2 up. The end of the second period saw the flashpoint which unleashed the pent up frustration in the game. A slash by Cingel on Morgan started the bench clearance with numerous scuffles. Payette was trying to start on everyone, Ciran Long bit and took on the big making taking him to the ice, much to the pleasure of most in the stands.
Sadly after the scuffle and going into the third period the lead didn't last and in the final period the Steeldogs score twice in 30seconds to tie the game and force overtime. The extra session couldn't produce a winner with both Fone and Bowns pulling off superb saves to keep their teams in the game. This semi final would be decided by a penalty shootout and, this is where Payette's ego lost the tie for me. The Phoenix went with Faith, Koulikov and Long the Dogs, Ozolins, G Wood and Payette. For me, G Wood and Payette are not good enough for penalty shots, Ozolins is a no brainer but, I think, G Wood and Payette's selection smacks of 'I want to score the winner against my old club'. Ozolins scored for Sheffield, Faith for Phoenix and, predictably G Wood and Payette failed to convert. Sudden death penalty shots followed and Bebris missed for Sheffield and Wallace, attacking the goal in front of the 520 strong Phoenix faithful roofed the puck to send the fans into jubilation and the Phoenix into their first final in their history.
Saturday night was party night! After grabbing some food the Phoenix fans descended on the Windmill and packed it full. Much drinking, banter and singing was had until the wee small hours where those fans headed for bed in anticipation for the big day that lay ahead.
Sunday Finals day! A day the Phoenix faithful had not experienced before! The big game was at 4pm and was preceded by the under 18's final between the Guildford Phoenix and Sheffield Steelhawks. Unfortunately I missed most of this game, getting into the SkyDome for the start of the third period. From what I saw Sheffield were the better team, they seemed better drilled and just had the extra skill. They won the cup but I cant remember the score! There wasn't much time before the final so most stayed in the SkyDome to drink in the pre game buildup!
Phoenix v Jets The final, the biggest game of the season for the Phoenix and a chance to end the season with some silverware. The game got underway and, even from a Phoenix fan perspective, the Phoenix were struggling. I imagine it was a cocktail of nerves and the semi final against Sheffield, but the Phoenix looked off the pace and things were just not clicking straight away. Passes were off and we just couldn't set up in the Slough zone. The Jets, looking more refreshed and used to the situation, were quickly 2-0 up. Credit to the Phoenix the end of the first period saw the score at 2-1 Slough.
As the game continued the Jets continued to have the upper hand, through the second into the third period it was obvious the Phoenix tank was dry. We couldn't match Slough at all. As the clock wound down to the Jets eventual win the Phoenix faithful made one last push to salute their club and the fans sung their hearts out. The final buzzer went and the dream was over, it would be runners up medals this time! One final salute between the players and fans followed as the curtain fell on the 2011/12 EPL season. Disappointed but proud the Phoenix faithful left the stands to contemplate the off season.
A group of around 50 Phoenix fans waited outside the SkyDome to give each and every Phoenix player a heartfelt send off, it was only what was deserved. Having given their all during the season and for it to come up short this time, they deserved our thanks. Each one was sang onto the bus and many a tear was shed. After grabbing some food there was time for one more question, To the Windmill?
For one last time a group of us took up a table in the Windmill to reflect on the weekend and the season and, with pride, salute our team for one last time.
Monday All that was left to do was have one last breakfast and pack up to head north on the M6 back to Cheshire and turn our attention to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Hockey in the UK was done and dusted, but the 2011/12 hockey season still has a few twists and turns left. Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed the Coventry weekend as much as I did, it was one of the best yet!
Here's to a quick summer and the 2012/13 season!

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