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!
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
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
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.
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