The Angry Budgie Live

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Phoenix v MK Lightning 8th December

As Christmas approaches the EPL season continues apace. The Phoenix faced two tricky games over last weekend, a trip down the motorway to the link centre for their second game against the Wildcats in Swindon. Then, sunday, a home game against the MK Lightning. The trip to Swindon saw the Phoenix getting another superb road win. The Link centre has been a difficult hunting ground for the Phoenix, in the past, this season the Phoenix have done well. 

Sunday's visit of the MK Lightning was also the fist game on a recent Groupon offer the Phoenix had put out. The Phoenix did this last season with some success. Tonight's game saw a larger crowd come to the Ice Dome, so much so that the face off was delayed. MK were without a number of players, some through injury and some who were off playing for GB U20's, Phoenix were at full strength. 

First Period: Off we went, the early stages were fairly even. Both Fone and Wall were called into action but both goalies were in good form. Phoenix put more shots on goal in the early stages but, MK were lightning fast (bdum tsch) on the break. Phoenix took the lead when Tony Hand skated up ice and, using a screen in front of Wall, put a shot on goal, timed at 7min 16sec.. The light lit and the home fans celebrated. Against MK it is always advisable to get the first goal. As the period progressed the Phoenix began to take some control but, as the period entered the final 5 minutes, the Phoenix gave up three breakaway chances which sent pulses racing, In fact the posts had come to the Phoenix aid a few times during the period! As the period ended, with the way the Phoenix were defending it was no surprise MK found their equilizer. The goal coming from Lascek at 19min 48sec. 

Second Period: The Phoenix started to take some control in the second period, MK were not playing to their usual strengths. There was not the same level of physicality from MK and this allowed the Phoenix the control. Phoenix were putting more and more shots on Wall but, like his name, he was proving difficult to get past. The Phoenix defence, while allowing some chances, started to shut the door and deny MK clear cut chances. The Phoenix took the lead when Michal Psurny scored a powerplay goal, timed at 27min 03sec. The Phoenix also took a bad penalty in the second period, in reality it was an appalling call from the referee. Bakrlik took a hit behind the MK net with an MK player leaving blood on the ice. The call was a 5 plus match for accidental high sticks, in reality it was an elbow. The penalty kill would prove to be huge, the Phoenix got through it without conceding, which was a big blow to MK. 

Third Period: The third period began and MK looked a little tired in the early stages. The short bench was really starting to affect the away team but, it didn't stop them creating a few chances. The game would turn on a 40 second passage of play mid way through the third period. The Phoenix extended their lead at 49min 05sec when Schnabel unleashed a booming shot from the blue line. One for the highlight reel I think! Then, just as the crowd was taking its seats and the announcement was being made, the Phoenix scored again. Richie Bentham scoring at 49min 45sec. The scoreboard now read 4-1 Phoenix and the MK fight began to fade. 

Verdict: A cracking win for the Phoenix, albeit against a weakened MK team. But a win is a win, the Phoenix played well, the early defensive wobbles were ironed out quickly and the forwards took their chances. The only blight was the horrendous call on Bakrlik. Even MK fans agreed it was a BS call, thankfully it will be downgraded to a game penalty. Even so, it was rubbish! 

Attendance: With the groupon offer the crowd was bigger than usual, i'll guess at 1,600 in the Ice Dome. 

Phoenix 4 MK 1 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 4 MK 1 - MK Article

The Angry Budgie EPL Podcast 5

Friday, 6 December 2013

Phoenix v Bracknell Bees 30th November

Phoenix faced a tough weekend double header against the Bees, a weekend which could offer up 4 points but, if the Phoenix didn't turn up, a 0 point weekend would also be possible! The Bees are a team who don't usually offer a title challenge but are not a team to be taken lightly. They have some skill but have more than enough willing combatants should the need arise! 

It was a Saturday night game so fans, both home and away, congregated at the Ice Dome for a night of entertainment. 

First Period: At the Ice Dome the Phoenix usually have enough to beat the Bees, but they are a team who can cause upsets. The Phoenix had to work hard and keep their concentration. Phoenix made the perfect start when James Archer put the home side ahead after 6min 03sec. The home side were starting to keep the puck more and more and put pressure on Annetts. That being said the Bees keeper in the first period was putting up some fight. Not to be outdone the Bees continued to create their own chances and, at 16min 10sec Chris Wiggins got the away team on the board. 

Second Period: The puck dropped on the second period and, it seemed, the Phoenix were still in the locker room! After just a minute the Bees took the lead. Grant Rounding putting the Bees ahead at 21min 08sec. This woke the home side and less than a minute later Andy McKinnie had the home side level, the Phoenix second coming at 22min exactly. The scoring continued when the Phoenix took the lead once again. On the powerplay the Phoenix moved the puck around the Bees zone quickly, Psurny was found on the back post and, almost apologetically, slid the puck home for one of his easier goals he will score. Just as the home fans thought the Phoenix would take hold, the Bees came right back. Rounding again levelling for the 2nd time at 26min 55sec. Both teams looked to have lost a big of defensive cohesion as the Phoenix took the lead....again! This time Robin Kovar scoring at 28min 29sec. Bakrlik extended the lead at 31min 09sec with an awesome shot, this man really has an unstoppable shot! The goals were coming with a bit more regularity now and the Phoenix scored again at 33min 38sec on the powerplay through Kovar. Capping off a frantic period of scoring the Phoenix hit number 7 at 35min 09sec through Michal Psurny. It was at this point that Annetts yanked himself from the game and in came Mettam. 

Third Period: With the Phoenix 7-3 up the Phoenix did ease up in the third period. Some credit must, however, be given to the Bees. They kept working hard and Mettam performed very well in their goal. Turning aside every shot he faced. Fone was also quiet through the period and no further goals were scored. 

Verdict: A good solid win for the Phoenix with a devastating second period doing the damage. A potentially tricky game at the Ice Dome negotiated with some style in the end. 

Attendance: A decent crowd for a saturday night, i'll guess at 1,000 in. 

Phoenix 7 Bracknell 3 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 7 Bracknell 3 - Bees Article

Sunday saw the reverse fixture down in Bracknell and, what ever luck the Phoenix had remained in Altrincham. Bracknell securing an equally impressive 8-2 win! 

Bees 8 Phoenix 2 - Phoenix Article
Bees 8 Phoenix 2 - Bees Article
Bees 8 Phoenix 2 - MEN Article

There is also the 4th Angry Budgie EPL podcast available for your ears!

Friday, 29 November 2013

Phoenix v Basingstoke Bison 24th November

Just the one game over last weekend for the Phoenix, the Bison were the visitors to Altrincham. Sans Lyle the Bison are still challenging at the top of the EPL table. Heading into the game against the Phoenix, the Bison had gone two games without conceding a goal. Quite an impressive record and, perhaps, a return to the defensive strength we came to know last season? 

With no game saturday for the home side the Phoenix should be fully rested, the Bison came into the game after hammering the Phantoms 6-0. Should be a good un then? 

First Period: The first target, for home fans, was not to conceded early goals. Thankfully, the Phoenix didn't! The home side quickly asserted their dominance, they looked to nullify the Bison's physical threat and that seemed to stop most of the Bison threat. Even in the early stages it was obvious the Phoenix had started brightly and it would take a big effort from the visitors to take anything from the game. Skinns was performing very well in goal and Fone was turning aside anything the Bison had to offer. The first goal did come for the home side, what a goal it was too! Frantisek Bakrlik took the puck around the point and unleashed a mighty shot which found Skinns five hole. It was such a strong shot I immediately though of Jeremy Clarkson and his 'poooweeeeerrrrrr' phrase, totally apt in this case! The first goal coming at 13min 33sec, the advantage was extended 4 minutes later when Bakrlik got his second at 17min 33sec. 

Second Period: So, 2-0 Phoenix and the home side looking relatively un-troubled for the first session. Bison had to do something and, up the physical play to try and nock the Phoenix from their stride. The Phoenix made a quick start to the second period when James Archer put the home side 3-0 up at 21min 20sec. A quick re-group for the visitors? Through the second period it did not look like the Bison had changed or been able to change their play. The Phoenix were then hit with a couple of penalties in quick succession, the home side were outstanding in their penalty kill. Giving the Bison absolutely nothing! The Phoenix also scored a lovely short handed goal during this time. A quick break saw Tony Hand skating up the right wing with James Archer busting a gut on the left wing to create a chance. A gorgeous floated cross ice pass from Hand found Archer free at the back post to light the lamp. The SHG coming at 36min 01sec. The dominance continued and, in the dying seconds of the period, the Phoenix added a 5th goal. Timed at 39min 28sec Frantisek Bakrlik got his hattrick goal. 

Third Period: With the home side 5 goals ahead the third period was not as intense. It almost seemed like both sides had accepted the result and just wanted to get through to the end. There was still no major fight back from the Bison, I had expected my chippy/rough play in the third in an effort to get something going. The Phoenix added a 6th goal at 57min 24sec when Psurny got his reward for another good performance. The Phoenix now had about 2 minutes to try and get Fone a SO. It was looking good until the 1 minute to go mark. The Bison finally got some pressure on the Phoenix goal and managed to get Fone moving post to post. Doug Sheppard was found on the back post and, his shot was almost saved by Fone, but looped agonizingly slowly over the Phoenix goalie into the corner of the net. The Bison goal coming at 58min 56sec. 

Verdict: I must admit, I was disappointing with the Bison performance. There is alot more to their play than they showed sunday night, the Bison have schooled the Phoenix in Altrincham before but this was far from it. I think too many players had off nights or just were not there. I was also surprised they did not get more physical during the game. Many teams have found when they nock the Phoenix around, it disrupts their rhythm and frustrates them. Perhaps it was the long bus ride, perhaps the Phoenix were just fresher but, it was a dominating display from the home side! Play like that for the rest of the season and we will be challenging for that title sure enough! 

Attendance: A good crowd for the game, i'll say 1,100 in the Ice Dome.

Phoenix 6 Bison 1 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 6 Bison 1 - MEN Article
Phoenix 6 Bison 1 - Bison Article 

Also for your audio pleasure, the third EPL hockey podcast.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Phoenix v Swindon Wildcats 16th November

Up next for the Phoenix was a saturday home game versus the Swindon Wildcats. This would only be the second meeting between to two sides this EPL season. The Phoenix skating away with a win in the only game, previously, down in Swindon. It has been a mixed season so far for the Wildcats coming off a summer where they lost one star and gained another. Out went Aaron Nell to the EIHL and in came Stevie Lyle. While Jonas Hoog has remained the Wildcats will miss the production of one of the best British forwards in the UK at the moment. Lyle's arrival, partly to be closer to home, has seen an upgrade in goaltending. New import Juha Silvander has also been released early into the season. 

So, a new look Swindon team came to the Ice Dome and we, fans, all congregated at a chilly Ice Dome. 

First Period: The puck dropped and off we went, except, someone forgot to tell the Phoenix! Before a stunned home crowd the Wildcats had raced to a 2-0 lead just 91 seconds into the game. Unfortunately, the Phoenix were napping for both goals. Swindon, to give them their credit, were switched on and took their chances well. With Swindon, if you can shut down their top line, they struggle...yeah we didn't do that in the first 5 minutes! After losing possession around the Swindon blue line the Wildcats broke, quickly, up ice and the puck was fed to Hoog. He took the puck down the left wing and unleashed a wicked shot from the top of the face off circle right past Fone. Just 60 seconds later Swindon did it again. A deflected put was launched up ice, with a high bounce over the centre circle. Ben Wood for the Phoenix had his eye on it but, didn't come forward and deal with it allowing the puck to bounce. The puck bounced dead, perfectly for Symonds who took a shot through Wood and into Fone's net. Steve wont be happy with conceding two goals from long shots. That said, 91seconds in, Swindon held a deserved lead! The Phoenix had to wake up and, they slowly did. As the period progressed the Phoenix pressed Lyle and the Swindon net and, were rewarded at 6min 46sec, when Psurny got the home side on the board. The Phoenix continued to warm up and begin to dominate possession but, Swindon looked potent and fast on the break. Phoenix would have to keep their concentration to get something from this game. 

Second Period: The Phoenix continued to press in the second period but, found Lyle to be just as good as ever. The switch from Basingstoke to Swindon has seen Lyle face more shots, so far this year, the second period was no different! The Phoenix were getting plenty of rubber on Lyle but nothing too testing. A netminder of his quality will eat up shots from the perimeter all day. While Swindon could not keep the Phoenix out all the time, the home side were not picking up on the re-bounds either.The Phoenix needed to get Lyle moving, which is what they did for their first goal. The Phoenix scored the only goal of the period at the midway point. Some slick passing had the Wildcats losing structure in their zone and Archer was found at the hash marks and he found the smallest of gaps between Lyle's legs. Game now tied up and back to square one. The home crowd expected now, the home side had the quality to score goals, they just had to prevent turnovers giving the Wildcats fast breakout chances. 

Third Period: The final period matched much of the second. Phoenix with chances on Lyle while trying to limit Swindon breaking up ice. The Wildcats are a good team but, perhaps, rely on Hoog too much now. Their main threat comes from that top line. They can rely on Lyle to a certain extent too, the Bison did, but the Cats are not as well organised as the Bison and, as a result, allow more chances than the Bison. There was only one goal in the third period, it came for the home side, once again mid way through the period. At 51min 49sec Frantisek Bakrlik put the home side ahead for the first time with a well taken goal. With the clock counting down,  Lyle looked to the bench for the extra skater but, the Wildcats just couldn't get control in the Phoenix zone until the final few seconds. The clock ran down, the whistle went and the home side won. 

Verdict: While the early goals were a concern, I was not worried at all. Yes 2-0 after 91 seconds is bad but, that left 58min 29sec for the Phoenix to find three goals. With the quality we have, that was entirely possible. Stevie Lyle is still top drawer but, he needs a good team in front to be a brick wall. Swindon just are not that team, Lyle faced a season high of 60 shots in the game. With that many shots, the odds are the other team will score. The only thing I'd have like to see the Phoenix do more, would be to get Lyle moving post to post more. He is great facing head on shots but, get him travelling and that's where chances come from! 

Attendance: Saturday nights never produce the biggest crowds at the Ice Dome and, this was no exception. I would say 800 in the Ice Dome. 

Phoenix 3 Swindon 2 - Phoenix Article

Phoenix then travelled down to Guildford sunday for a top of the table clash with the Flames. The game was tight until the first half of the final period where the Flames scored 3 unanswered to take hold. Despite a late consolation, the Phoenix would head north pointless. 

Guildford 4 Phoenix 2 - Phoenix Article
Guildford 4 Phoenix 2 - MEN Article
Guildford 4 Phoenix 2 - Flames Article

One final link for you all, the second ever Angry Budgie Podcast is available for your listening pleasure.....or not! Haha!

Friday, 15 November 2013

Phoenix v Sheffield Steeldogs 10th November

The EPL season continues it's relentless march, now well into November the ice hockey fan enters it's more familiar surroundings. The cold, wet nights of an English winter. The Phoenix weekend meant a long trip south saturday night to the hangar in Slough to take on old friends, Koulikov/Long and the Jets. Sunday would see our friends from the east the Sheffield Steeldogs come to town. Against the Jets the Phoenix have a winning record, including the blowout result of 12-2 in Altrincham. Putting that aside the games have been close and, saturday night's would be no exception. 3-3 going into overtime, Bakrlik found his scoring boots to win the Phoenix the extra point. A good start to the weekend but Sheffield would be another tough test. 

The Steeldogs were another team who faced the Phoenix early onslaught and, the series so far has been in favour of the Phoenix. A bit more background to sunday nights game was a bet made between Tambo (off of Phoenix TV) and Andre Payette. For the game in Sheffield a week prior, if Steeldogs won - Tambo would wear a Steeldogs jersey all game in Altrincham, if Phoenix win - Andre would wear the Phoenix children in need shirt for warmup and post match interviews. Well, the Phoenix won 5-3 so we all looked forward to sunday night. Credit to Andre, he is a man of his word! He duly appeared in his Phoenix jersey, which is now up for auction on ebay! (put ebay link) 

Anyway, sunday rolled round and we all set off for the Ice Dome and, come 5.30pm, the puck dropped on the next 'war of the roses' instalment. 

First Period: We all know how Sheffield play, uncompromising physicality. They do, however, have some talent and skill on the roster. In Janis Ozolins they had one of the best players to play in the EPL. Last year and this, the scoring mantle has fallen to Lubomir Korhon. He of the tricky hands and white gloves. The Phoenix felt the full force of his skill in the first period. In fact, it took the Steeldogs less than a minute to score the first goal. It wasn't a poor opening from the Phoenix but, Sheffield worked to create the chance and Korhon executed brilliantly! Scoring the opening goal after 44sec. Any early worry caused by this in the home crowd was set to be just 26sec later when Michal Psurny brought the home side level. Puck possession was fairly even in the first period even though the Phoenix were edging the shot count. Steeldogs scored the next goal when Korhon got his second of the game, timed 15min 16sec. While Sheffield were leading on the scoreboard Callum Pattison had offered Andy McKinnie out again, a hangover from the last game over in Sheffield. This time with a nod from Tony, McKinnie obliged and we had one of the better recent fights seen at the Ice Dome. McKinnie more than edged the fight, connecting with a fair few punches. Definite win for McKinnie, one to watch on Phoenix TV! Buoyed by the fight the Phoenix tried hard to go into the break even stevens but couldn't quite do it. 

Second Period: 2-1 to Sheffield was not a worrying scoreline, the Phoenix had more than enough quality to claw it back. But, you never know! Thankfully the second period would turn out to be a real purple patch for the home side. While on the penalty kill, Kovar was found high up ice with a lovely pass out of the defensive zone to go 1 on 1 with Sedlar. Kovar pulled off a fantastic finish and lifted the roof at 27min 21sec scoring a short handed equaliser. With the scores level the game continued to be quite close, Phoenix were getting some shots in on Sedlar but he was proving to be a good match. Sheffield were doing well in keeping the Phoenix honest and not letting the home side run away with things. Then, a powerplay opportunity blew that thinking out of the water. Going on the powerplay the Phoenix scored the go-ahead goal at 37min 03sec, Psurny getting his second. That goal kicked off a mad two minute eight second period where the Phoenix sealed the game. Bakrlik got himself scoring again with a gorgeous wrister at 37min 25sec, Ben Wood got in on the scoring action with a breakaway goal at 38min 52sec, Bakrlik settled his hat-trick with goals at 38min 52sec and 39min 11sec. Shortly after it could have been number 7 with Kovar missing the post by fractions of an inch. Sheffield were shocked, Sedlar was hung out to dry and the Phoenix were dominating. 

Third Period: The Phoenix noticeably eased off in the final session, Sheffield replaced Sedlar with Day and looked to restore some pride. A quick goal in the third period from Calvert ensured the scoreboard looked a little better. Sheffield's second goal coming at 51min 12sec. Phoenix were hunting more goals but, without any pressing urgency were not testing Day enough for me. Day, to give him credit, was working hard in goal and was making some good saves. As the period wore on the game began to wind down as the home side looked to secure the points. Sheffield would light the lamp one final time with 9 seconds to go when Gibson go their 4th of the night. 

Verdict: Potentially a very tricky game, but that second period blitz was simply awesome. It was good to see Bakrlik back on the scoresheet as he has been struggling for goals a little recently. McKinnie took his fight well and scored a win in that respect. Overall the Phoenix were good value for the win, they had more quality on show than Sheffield, more shots, and that usually means a win. Credit to Andre for honouring his bet too! Please take a look at all the Children in Needs shirts and see if any take your fancy! 

Attendance: A good crowd for the derby game, i'll say 1,200 in the Ice Dome. 

Phoenix 6 Sheffield 4 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 6 Sheffield 4 - Steeldogs Article
Phoenix 6 Sheffield 4 - The Bolton News

As if all that was not enough, The Angry Budgie has now gone podcasting. Im trying not to be Phoenix focused with it so its more about the EPL as a whole. I hope it's worth a listen! If you have any comments let me know @theangrybudgie on twitter!

The Angry Budgie EPL Podcast

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Phoenix v MK Lightning 3rd November

With the Phoenix back to winning ways the hope would be for another good weekend to solidify the form and keep pace with Guildford/Basingstoke at the top of the EPL table. The next weekend of games saw the Phoenix make the short trip across t'hills to take on the Steeldogs before welcoming the MK Lightning to the Ice Dome sunday. The trip across the hills proved to be a fruitful one as the Phoenix returned with a fantastic 5-3 victory. 

With a good win under the belts to start the weekend the Phoenix had the Lightning to contend with next. Games against the Lightning are tough, they can be physical but they will be entertaining! The Phoenix were without James Neil, who had suffered an injury in Sheffield, the Lightning were without Adam Carr and Lewis Christie so both sides were a little short benched. 

First Period: The early exchanges were quite close, the Phoenix had the slight edge but were not getting much joy on Wall. The Lightning worked hard, and carved out a few break out chances. The Lightning got the first goal of the game and, it had been coming to be fair! With just 3min 27sec the Lightning broke up ice and Jamieson was on hand to score the games opening goals. As frustrating as it was for us Phoenix fans, it was a well taken goal. It did not get better for the home side, almost a carbon copy of the first, MK stretched their lead to 2. At 8min 25sec the speedy Joklia was the next MK player to capitalise on a Phoenix turnover to break up ice and score. The Phoenix were not playing badly at all, in fact they had most of the puck. The turnovers were their undoing so far in the game! With MK now two goals to the good the Phoenix needed to tighten up their defence but keep working. The efforts paid off when James Archer got the home side on the board at 12min 57sec when he scored a fantastic 5-hole effort from the hash marks. He had worked hard to get into some space and when he was found with the puck he reacted quicker than everyone else to get the shot away. This lifted the team and the crowd and it was no surprise that the Phoenix pulled themselves level. At 15min 02sec, the Phoenix cycled the puck in the MK zone, drew a penalty and, with the extra player on the ice, Kovar scored a delayed penalty goal. With the game level it almost felt like we were back to square one. Both sides trading chances as the period wound down. 

Second Period: Games against MK are always fun to watch. Much like games against Guildford they can be filled with some fantastic end to end hockey. MK games have a more physical edge to them, simply through the different roster make up, and that always adds a certain spice to proceedings. The second period did not see a goal fest but some good play none the less. Both sides had some good chances but Fone and Wall were in good form. The one goal of the period fell to the Phoenix and nudged them out to a 3-2 lead. Scored at 28min 18sec Luke Boothroyd continued his scoring exploits this season with a fine strike. The other noticeable thing through the period was the rising levels of physicality and, the apparent lack of intervention by the referee. You could tell, as the players were chatting to each other that tension was building. 

Third Period: That level of physical play continued in to the third period but, it did not stop a couple of goals being scored. Phoenix scored at 44min 55sec through Sir Toe Knee of Hand, deciding to take a shot and scoring a wonderful goal actually. That capped off a great 4 goal comeback from the Phoenix.  MK would not let things go all Phoenix' way though. With the 5min to go mark gone the Lightning pressure told and Lascek scored to bring them to within one. Goal scored at 55min 22sec. With that the chippy levels reached breaking point and a line brawl broke out. For MK this was perfect, McPherson and Schnabel paired off as did Kovar and Zatopek. In both cases the Phoenix players owned the fights. Kovar in particular went to town on Zatopek and owned him completely. MK didn't care though, after the dust had settled, Kovar/Zatopek were sat for 2+2 respectively and Schnabel/McPherson were gone for 3rd man in and incitement respectively. So, even though they lost both fights, MK benefited from getting a Phoenix import D off the ice for the last 4 mins or so. Things got better for the away team as, soon after the re-start McKinnie was sat for a tripping penalty. 5 on 4 and then, as time ticked down, 6 on 4 as MK pulled Wall. The Phoenix were able to hold on though and secure a 4-3 win. 

Verditc: A great game and another entertaining instalment of the Phoenix v MK series. Glad to get the win and another 4 point weekend the Phoenix were made to work hard for that win. The fights were a highlight and, wow, Kovar, what a beast. I really think he is becoming a vital cog in the Phoenix machine. Such a good stick handler with the puck and willing to stick up for his teammates and hold his own in a fight too! 

Attendance: A decent crowd in the ice dome, I'll say 1,000! 

Phoenix 4 MK 3 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 4 MK 3 - MK Article

Friday, 1 November 2013

Phoenix v Bracknell Bees 27th October

After the last weekend's struggles which saw the Phoenix take just a point from the weekend, the Phoenix would take on the Bees in a double header. The weekend would pit the two sides against each other, the previous time, seeing the Phoenix eliminate the Bees on their way to last seasons playoff championship win. Over the summer the Bees have re-built and, going off reports from previous games, have a hard working and physical side. The game down at the hive would be another close one and, yet another game for the Phoenix going the distance and then some! 60 minutes of hockey could not separate the teams, neither could the 5 minutes of OT. This game would be settled on the dreaded penalty shootout. A real lottery to decide the extra point, on this occasion it was the Bees who prevailed, winning 3-2! 

The game up in Altrincham would see the two teams meet again and battle it out for another valuable two points. Would it go the way of the Bees and give them a four point weekend or, would it go the way of the Phoenix and rescue a weekend which could see another weekends efforts rewarded with a single point? 

First Period: The Telford Tigers, in the previous home game, worked hard at disrupting the Phoenix in centre ice. This worked well in frustrating the Phoenix and upsetting their rhythm. The Bees did not quite pull this off during the game but, during the first period, their hard work and solid D helped keep the Phoenix chances low.  The home side enjoyed more shots on goal in this game but found Mettam in goal in fine form. The deadlock was broken at 7min 45sec with the Phoenix on the powerplay. Some good perimeter passing worked the Bees D out of shape before the puck found it's way to Bakrlik who rifled a shot past Mettam. The Phoenix and Bees traded a few chances each but the Phoenix were edging the play in the first period. The clock wound down towards the end of the period and the Bee's decided to play party pooper and take the edge off the Phoenix momentum. With just 42sec left in the period Grant Rounding brought them level when he found some space and scored. A very well worked goal, despite having the edge on the period as a whole (the Phoenix) a 1-1 score was about right. 

Second Period: The period began much like the first with the Phoenix enjoying more of the chances but, not really getting quality through on Mettam. The Bees were no mugs mind, they bided their time, defending solidly and looked to capitalise on the break. When they did so they found Steve Fone in fine form. It was through this period it became clear, the Phoenix really need to work on a plan B! The usual free flowing hockey was being frustrated by the hard work and dedication of the Bees unit. The period wore on and it would be down to the last minutes before another goal was scored. The home side edged in front just before the break when James Archer put the Phoenix 2-1 up at 38min 26sec.

Third Period: Un surprisingly the third period was much like the second. The Bees working hard to minimise clear chances and the Phoenix frustrated by Mettam when they were able to get shots on. The Bees got themselves level in the game at 45min 21sec when Grant Rounding scored on the powerplay. With the scores at 2-2 many of the crowd could be forgiven for allowing a few nerves to surface. Would the Bees nick a winner late on? Are we going to overtime again? It was not like the Phoenix were not trying. For the remaining 15 minutes the Phoenix were constantly nocking on the door. They had numerous close chances, shots that just didn't quite come off the tape 100% passes just not quite there, as the clock wound down it seemed obvious no further goals were going to come. 

Overtime: So OT it was, again! 4 on 4 the Phoenix upped the pressure again in the extra period but Mettam was standing on his head. Despite a few close calls neither side could break the deadlock, leading to penalty shots. 

Penalty Shots: Possibly the worst penalty shot performance I have ever seen......from both sides! We had got through 5 rounds of attempts before Robert Schabel stepped up and fired a stonking shot past Mettam to give the Phoenix the win. While both goaltenders performed very well, the shots on offer from the skaters were very poor! 

Verdict: The weekend could have ended with a loss for the Phoenix making it 4 on the bounce. Thankfully it didn't! The Phoenix held on for the win and a 3 point weekend. Doesn't sound too bad does it Phoenix fans? What worries me about the past two home games is, against teams who play flowing hockey, ie, Flames/Bison/MK etc..the Phoenix are brilliant and can more than match those teams. It's games against Sheffield/Telford and the Bees where I worry a little. These are teams who don't play with open hockey in mind, They are grafters, teams who work hard centre ice and hold a solid D core in their own zone. This game and the game against Telford showed, the Phoenix need to work on a  game plan for those type of teams. I am happy we won, that much is certain, I just hope Sir Toe Knee is working on an effective plan b! 

Attendance: I'll say around 900 in the Ice Dome.

Phoenix 3 Bracknell 2 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 3 Bracknell 2 - Bees Article 

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Phoenix v Telford Tigers 20th October

Another weekend gone, many many more to go. The next set of challenges for the Phoenix would see them make their first trip to Basingstoke to take on the Bison. Then, sunday would see the Tigers make their first trip north to try and avenge the loss in Telford, against the Phoenix. The Bison had lost Stevie Lyle over the summer but, they still have a damn good roster and will be hard to break down. The first meeting between the two sides seemed to hinge on the second period. The Phoenix spent most of it on the penalty kill which handed the Bison the advantage. Head on over to Banners on the Wall (@84russell) for an in depth run down of the game. 

Turning to sundays game against the Tigers, I will apologise for taking a while to post this. Part of it has been me being lazy but, after what happened, I didn't want to write this while still mightily p****d off! With a few days to simmer and calm down I will dive right in as always! 

First Period: One thing we know of the Tigers, they work hard and Ryan is bloody good! The first period began with both teams trying to take control. The Phoenix were able to control the puck but, the Tigers were moving well and organised in their own defensive zone. They held their shape well and protected Ryan, forcing the Phoenix to take long shots which Ryan found easy to turn away. The Phoenix were struggling to settle into their flowing speedy game, mainly due to the Tigers hard work. The home side could not get many chances or rebounds in and around Ryan to create scoring chances. Tigers looked to sit back, marshal their own zone and hit Phoenix on the break. A few warnings came the Phoenix way with a few turn overs leading to goals so, there was not much surprise when the Tigers took the lead. The Tigers forced a turnover down the side boards then broke fast up-ice with a 2 on 1. After a great cross ice pass Mikusovic put the Tigers ahead, goal timed at 11min 40sec. The rest of the period was much of the same, Phoenix trying hard to settle and get some chances but, The Tigers denying the Phoenix quality puck in the offensive zone. 

Second Period: Something had to change for the Phoenix and, it looked like the first intermission team talk from Sir Tony had done the trick. Just under two minutes into the period the Phoenix pulled level. It was Sir Tony himself with a strong shot through the 5 hole, goal timed at 21min 50sec. The routine of the first period continued as the Phoenix pressed for more goals. The Tigers were standing firm however and, would hit the Phoenix again on the break, this time Callum Bowley putting the visitors in front at 27min 35sec. As the second period approached its half way point the Phoenix began to hit some form and make some passes connect. Andy McKinnie scored a lovely top shelf goal at 38min 19sec to, once again, bring the Phoenix level. The Phoenix then looked to take the game by the scruff of the neck and, come the end of the period, were in a commanding 4-2 lead. Robin Kovar got the Phoenix nose in front at 35min 26sec the, got his second on the powerplay at 39min 11sec. All smiles for the home fans? Little did they know!! 

Third Period: With the Phoenix ahead by two goals the early stages of the second period were a little sedate. But, let me introduce Mr Excrement to Mr Fan! Approaching the half way point it all went off. With the Phoenix in possesion of the puck they worked some space and the puck found Michal Psurny free on the back post. Psurny roofed a fantastic shot past Declan Ryan into the goal, goal light goes on, horn sounds and music is played. But carried on....surely not? Yes...with the referee's arms stretched out wide the goal was washed off. Hand and Psurny go mental and the Phoenix lose concentration. Credit to the Tigers for playing to the whistle, just a few moments later they scored to haul themselves within one. Adam Taylor scoring at 47min 39sec. The Phoenix were guilty of losing control. Their sense of injustice only got worse, a few minutes later, with the game becoming more scrappy the Tigers would break up ice and score the levelling goal. In doing so, the play, seemed to be offside going into the Phoenix zone, no call. Another huge call made by the officials which, the majority of people in the Ice Dome, thought was wrong. The game levelling goal coming at 51min 14sec through Natham Salem. The period wound down with no further goals and the sense of injustice rising in the home stands. Perhaps Karma would smile on us in overtime? 

Overtime and Penalty Shots: Given the title it's obvious no further goals were scored. Despite the Phoenix best efforts they could not set up and enjoy some pressure in the Tigers zone. The Phoenix penalty shots were, over all, a little poor. Tigers winning the shootout and gaining the extra point with a 2-1 shootout win. 

Verdict: The Phoenix were the better side, that much was clear but, all the possession and quality counts for diddly squat if you come up against a determined, hard working squad. No other team in the EPL exemplifies this more than the Tigers. This game just clicked for them, the Phoenix couldn't slot into gear. Had they done so, this would have been a comfortable win. As for the two moments, you can level the 'rose tinted's' at me but, this was genuinely the worst officiating performance I think I have ever seen in the Ice Dome. The offisde decision which lead to a Telford goal was clear but, it was the 'goal' scored by Psurny which turned the game and the Phoenix lost their heads. I have spoken to two people who stand at ice level in the horseshoe end, both saw the puck cross the line, the initial reaction of the Tigers players suggested the puck crossed the line, the goal light came on which suggests the goal judge saw it cross the line but, the referee did not see it cross the line. A massively poor decision, and a turning point. In theory that goal puts the Phoenix 5-2 up, instead we are 4-3 up and loosing concentration. In the end credit the Tigers they played on, kept composed and hauled themselves back level. 

I just hope Karma smiles on the Phoenix at some point towards the end of the season! On the plus side, for Phoenix fans, a title challenge is not ended in October!

Attendance: A good crowd buoyed by a large Tigers following. I'll say 1,100 in the Ice Dome.

Phoenix 4 Telford 5 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 4 Telford 5 - Tigers Article
Phoenix 4 Telford 5 - The Bolton News

Monday, 14 October 2013

Phoenix v Guildford Flames 13th October

The weekend just gone saw the Phoenix unbeaten start put under its sternest test yet. After going a perfect 8 and 0 the Phoenix had a weekend double header against, last seasons EPL Champions and the current 2nd placed team, the Guildford Flames. The Flames, as @jonthatcher pointed out, the Phoenix B team now contains many former Phoenix alumni: 

Curtis Huppe 
Marcus Kristoffersson 
Andrew Sharp 
Dean Holland 
Tom Duggan 

Games between the two sides are eagerly anticipated as, both teams set out to play hockey. There is physicality but the hockey comes first. Both teams will play the game at speed, with skill, and for the full 60 minutes. I know I look forward to them! The first game of the weekend would see the Phoenix take to the Spectrum ice in Guildford. The game sounded like another corker, despite the low score in the end. It had, almost everything, a late penalty shot missed by the Phoenix and, a late late winner from a former Phoenix favourite. Duggan with the late goal to break Phoenix heats. The game finishing 3-2 Guildford. 

Off we went to the Ice Dome for the return fixture in Altrincham. Some were nervous, I wasn't to be honest! I knew Phoenix/Flames games were entertaining and hockey would take the priority. I am ok losing to a team who wins by playing damn good hockey and, with Guildford, you know that's what you are going to get! Obviously I hoped we would win, I thought we could given how strong the team is this year but, you never know! 

First Period: After a warm welcome back for Kristoffersson and Duggan the game got underway at its customary frenetic pace! The strength in depth on the Flames bench is something scary, three very strong lines can be iced and any team, ourselves included, have to be at their best. Thankfully the home side were and, while not dominating the game as they had so far this season, were able to compete with the Flames. Both sides played hard and some of the hockey on show was fantastic. The Phoenix  took the lead at 6min 02sec when Tony Hand found some space and fired a low shot through Hadfield's 5-hole. This definitely fired up the Flames, who then began to pressure the Phoenix net. Guildford began to dominate the game and, were it not for some sloppy effort in front of goal, they would have been a few goals up. Duggan and Kristoffersson guilty of wasting some great chances. The Flames did get on the board and even up the game at 13min 18sec when Campbel scored finally getting the puck past Fone. Guildford continued to have the better chances but, the Phoenix were able to hold on and go into the interval tied at 1. 

Second Period: The Phoenix needed to find their gears to get back into the game and to impose themselves on home ice. The break did the Phoenix good and, after getting back onto the Ice early were raring to go. The opening exchanges were relatively even again and, as a result, the two sides traded goals early in the period. Phoenix scored first through McKinnie with a great top corner finish at 21min 22sec, the joy was short-lived however, as under a minute later the Flames equalised...again! Former Phoenix player Tom Duggan with the goal at 22min 09sec. In truth it was a great goal from the Flames. Duggan was found bursting into the Phoenix zone and then lifted the puck, on his back hand, over Fone into the roof of the net. While the Phoenix were steadily edging the period the Flames would take their first lead of the game. Another former Phoenix man, Dean Holland scored the Flames go-ahead goal at 26min 57sec. The goal really snapped the Phoenix into gear as the goal provoked an un-answered three goal haul for the home side. Michal Psurny tied things up at 27min 55sec. Then, after the officials had finally realised there were two teams on the ice and called a penalty on the Flames, the Phoenix got a powerplay goal. The Flames were protecting the hash marks very well and Boother was taking some punishment in front of goal. Even so, he took a pass and, even with a heft check, managed to do a spin-o-rama, shoot, and find the bottom right corner. The goal put the Phoenix back in front, timed at 32min 51sec. With the scores at 4-3 the Phoenix scored again with 52 sec left on the clock, almost the perfect time to score. Robin Kovar getting the Phoenix 5th at 39min 08sec. 

Third Period: The score 5-3, 20 minutes to go, this game was far from over. The late goal in the second was a massive boost for the Phoenix but, as fans across the EPL will know, Guildford are stacked with fire-power. Two goals would not be un-achievable for the Flames! The third began and the Phoenix kept on their improving form from the second period. They were able to compete and edge the play against the Flames, when the Flames did get chances they found Fone in top form. Both sides were still missing the odd chance which would usually be put away. The next goal would be crucial *ding* (taken from the hockey cliche book). The goal came for the home side and the Phoenix made it 6-3 at 50min 13sec when Michal Psurny got his second of the game. With the passing of each minute the noise began to rise as the home fans began to countdown the time with excitement. Guildford would act the villain one more time when Marcus Kristoffersson scored their 4th of the night at 56min 52sec, This years Phoenix team is made of sterner stuff when compared with vintage 12/13. Last years team could have succumbed to the pressure but not this years variety. There is much more resolve and determination in these boys. The game was sealed with two minutes to go when Psurny got his hat trick goal at 58min 05sec. That would be the last goal of the game and the Phoenix held on for the win! 

Verdict: As mentioned at the beginning of this post, Phoenix/Flames games are anticipated highly by both fan bases and, this past weekend did not disappoint. If you have the time, make sure you look out for the highlights packages for both games this weekend. Some of the hockey played in Altrincham was fantastic! Guildford showed their awesome power in the first and were un-lucky not to have taken a lead into the first intermission. The new levels of determination from the Phoenix is a big reason why they couldn't! In fact with the Phoenix having the better of the second/third periods the scoreline in the end was a fair reflection. Tony managed to keep a lid on Bakrlik despite the intense provocation from the Flames. The Phoenix penalty kill performed very well and did not concede while, the powerplay unit made use of their one opportunity. In the end a hard fought and deserved win which keeps the Phoenix at the top of the pile. 

Attendance: A good crowd came to watch the fun, i'll say about 1,200 in the Ice Dome. 

Phoenix 7 Guildford 4 - Phoenix Article

Phoenix 7 Guildford 4 - Flames Article 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Phoenix v Slough Jets 6th October

After the Phoenix hit 11 past Peterborough the previous weekend the Phoenix faced a tougher weekend against the MK Lightning and Slough Jets. MK have always give the Phoenix a good game so, on saturday the Phoenix went down to Coventry (MK's temporary home for the season) for their first meeting of the season. The Phoenix mean defense was on form again as the guys returned to Manchester with a 3-1 victory. 

Sunday meant Slough and the return, again, of former Phoenix players Ciaran Long and Dave Koulikov. The Phoenix should usually win games against Slough at home but, the Jet's do have quality to cause an upset. Ales Padelek is a new import for the Jets and joins Supercalifragilistic Darius Pliskauskas (thanks Paddy) who cane do some damage. The fans gathered at the Ice Dome to see if the Phoenix could make it another 4 point weekend or, the Jet's would be the party poopers! 

First Period: The atmosphere in the Ice Dome was fantastic in the early stages, for a big tin shed the Ice Dome does create great noise from the stands. The atmosphere rubbed off on the home players the Phoenix made a strong start. With the Phoenix putting pressure on, the recently returning, Rockman it was only a matter of time before the first goal came. Many a Phoenix fan will lament we are often more dangerous on the penalty kill, it was a short handed situation with which the Phoenix opened the scoring. The Phoenix forced a turnover and Hand took the puck up ice with Bakrlik, a short cross ice pass and Bakrlik gave Rockman no chance with his shot. First goal coming at 5min 26sec. The Phoenix continued to pressure Slough, their fore-checking and play in centre ice being a real highlight. Slough just couldn't get enough quality puck in the Phoenix zone. The second goal for the Phoenix came mid-way through the first period. Michal Psurny getting in on the scoring act at 11min 50sec. The period continued with the Phoenix pressuring and Fone looking in good form. 

Second Period: The second period saw a goal fest, timeout and 3 goals in 2 minutes. With the Phoenix camping out in the opposition zone it took the home side a little over 4 minutes into the period to score their third goal of the night. After some good play down the wing, Tony Hand found himself on the back post with the puck and a sprawling Rockman. From behind the goal line he managed to jab the puck home and increase the lead, scoring at 24min 39sec. Phoenix were still creating chances and pushing Rockman into giving up re-bounds. The Phoenix scored again at 26min 10sec when Bakrlik added to his impressive goal tally. Liam Chong continued to scoring  just under two minutes later when he made it 5-0 Phoenix at 28min 43sec. The 5th goal prompted a timeout from the Jets. So far in the game the Jets looked a little lost in defence and were just not helping Rockman when ever he gave up re-bounds. Unfortunately it did not seem to do the visitors any good as Robin Kovar scored for the Phoenix at 29min 50sec. The game passed it's halfway mark and the Jets finally got on the board, Ales Padelek finding some space and picking up a rare rebound from Fone to slot the puck home, scoring the Jets first at 35min 26sec. This goal provoked the Phoenix into a deadly show of offence, James Archer scored his first of the night at 36min 23sec, followed by Michal Psurny just 23 seconds later, his goal timed at 36min 46sec. Jack Watkins rounded off the Phoenix burst of scoring with his goal timed at 38min 24sec. An astonishing 7 goal second period that blew the Jets off the ice. 

Third Period: As with the Peterborough game the previous weekend Tony Hand chose not to ice for the third period and to rest Steve Fone. So El-Hage once again getting a useful 20min period out on the ice. With the game won the Phoenix could afford to wind down a little, having said that they were still able to keep the Jet's at bay for most of the period. The goals did keep coming however and, man-of-the-match James Archer got his second of the night at 48min 01sec. A minute later the impressive Bentham made it 11 for the Phoenix scoring at 49min 14sec. The period saw the Phoenix loose Jacob Corson-Heron with a 5minute match penalty for slashing. No issue with the call as it did draw blood, more issue is the high stick one Tony Hand in the first period that drew blood but was not called....go figure! With the Jet's on a 5 minute powerplay they would get their second of the game early on in the PP. Wales scoring at 53min 34sec. Final goal of the game came for Liam Chong, we are really seeing the player we have waited a whole season for! On a 2-on-1 break Liam delayed a pass across and instead opted to shoot, scoring a short handed goal at 56min 30sec. With the scoreboard reading Phoenix 12 Slough 2 the final 4/5 minutes were spent at half pace as both teams watched the clock run down. 

Verdict: Simply astonished at the scoreline, I know the Phoenix are good this year but, I expected more from the Jets. Even with Tambo insisting on the podcast the Jets have no D, they are a good team and have some talented players. The Phoenix look scary good and look to have some awesome firepower. Another good weekend and wonders for the goal difference. At the time of writing the Jet's have acted and made changes, surprising many fans and players too, they have chosen to release Ryan Watt. Strange decision as he could be seen as one of the go-to energy players on the line-up but, he 'was not fulfilling the role intended' according to the club! 

Attendance: Maybe a little down on normal, the lack of a tram service will have affected some who usually come to games at the Ice Dome. I'll guess at 8-900 in the Ice Dome. 

Phoenix 12 Slough 2 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 12 Slough 2 - The Bolton News
Phoenix 12 Slough 2 - Slough Article

Phoenix 12 Slough 2 - Game Sheet

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Phoenix v Peterborough Phantoms 30th September

The Phoenix unbeaten start to the 13/14 EPL season would receive a stern test this past weekend, mainly from the away trip to the Swindon Wildcats. Swindon, away, have been the Phoenix bogey team with the Link centre not being a happy hunting ground for us. Over the summer Swindon have added the EPL's best netminder from last season Stevie Lyle and also retained the services of Jonas Hoog once of the leagues best forwards. On the flip side they lost Aaron Nell to the Steelers and, Matt Towe left a month after signing. With that in mind as the game faced off and the updates came through it was amazing to see the Phoenix take the lead and close out the Wildcats for a superb 4-0 victory. 

With that win in the bag the Phoenix returned home to take on the Peterborough Phantoms. The Phantoms are a team the Phoenix should beat at home but, can prove to be a tricky opposition at times. Phantoms have lost a few players who were linchpins of their roster over a number of seasons. Players like Ziedins/Lauko who have retired and Carlon/Norton and Graham who have left to find new clubs. This would be The Angry Budgie's first game back after a week off.......I know......part time fan! 

First Period: The opening stages were bossed by the Phoenix, the home side had more of the puck and began to lay some rubber on King in the Phantoms net. Fairly early on you could get the feeling the Phantoms were struggling to keep the Phoenix out of their zone and away from the net. With the Phoenix dominating the Phantoms were limited to the odd break away into the Phoenix zone and shots from the blue line, which Fone was more than equal too. The first goal, inevitably, came for the Phoenix when Liam Chong continued his good start to the season scoring the Phoenix first goal at 8min 45sec. Also clear from the opening minutes was that Tony had mixed up the lines putting Watkins out with Psurny and Bakrlik and Kovar anchoring the second line. Kovar is really starting to impress and it was Robin who scored the Phoenix second at 13min 05sec. Just about two minutes later and Bakrlik scored an awesome goal, there will be few goalies who can stop a wrister from him! His goal and the Phoenix third coming at 15min 43sec. 

Second Period: Even at this early stage the atmosphere in the Ice Dome began to fall a little flat, mainly because it was clear that there was not much of a contest out on the Ice. It was a shame to see but pleasing for the home fans, the Phoenix dominance was pretty complete. The first goal of the period came from Bakrlik with another strong shot that blew past King, timed 23min 16sec. The last half of the period saw the Phoenix seal the win with three additional goals. Not wanting to be outdone by his fellow Czech, Michal Psurny got his first of the night at 31min 58sec. Bakrlik got his hat-trick goal at 34min 26sec and James Archer rounded off the scoring, making it 7-0 at 38min 10sec with a deserved goal. 

Third Period: With the game won bar the shouting, Tony Hand took the decision to rest up for the third period and ice El-Hage for the final session. This is a tactic I can see happening alot this season if the Phoenix are able to establish a good lead in a game. The pace of the period was markedly lower than the previous two but still followed the same pattern. Phoenix scored again at 45min 06sec when Psurny got his second and the Phoenix 8th goal of the game. As the period progressed the Phantoms got a penalty shot, deservedly so, after Boothroyd had hooked Zubek who was clear through. Some interest injected into the game but, it was a poor penalty shot effort which El-Hage found easy to deflect wide of the goal. A big opportunity missed to give the few travelling Phantoms fans something to cheer about. With the away challenge more or less over the Phoenix added a further three goals in the last 10 minutes with goals from Kovar (2nd of the night) Bakrlik (4th of the night) and Chong (2nd of the night) coming at, 52min 48sec/54min 34sec and 55min 20sec respectively to round off a crushing 11-0 victory. 

Verdict: In the end this was far from a classic, im not sure what to make of the Phantoms off this performance. They have caused the Phoenix some heart stopping moments but sundays performance was far from it, they really didn't look like a team out on the ice. King in goal was hung out to dry on so many occasions! It was probably a combination of a poor Phantoms performance and an utterly dominant Phoenix one! On the drive home I was thinking about the game and, how it really wasn't a great watch. The hockey purist in me wants more from a game, a bit of opposition and fight from the away team but that was lacking. A newbie would have been please though, 11 goal and a bit of a fight? That's what you'd want right? Anyway, a win is a win and, 11-0 does wonders for the goal difference! Who knows this big win, and the big win against the Steeldogs, could be vital come March! 

Attendance: Fairly small crowd compared to recent games, i'll guess at 900 in the Ice Dome.

Phoenix 11 Peterborough 0 - Phoenix Article

Phoenix 11 Peterborough 0 - Peterborough Today
Phoenix 11 Peterborough 0 - Bolton News

Monday, 16 September 2013

Phoenix v Sheffield Steeldogs 15th September


The EPL season is upon us as hockey fans across the country dust off those replica jerseys and break out the satnav's to being the long road to Coventry 2014. The Phoenix opening weekend saw them make the short trip down the M6 to Telford then welcome the Steeldogs to the Ice Dome for the second time in a week. The away fixture to Telford as the first game on the calendar has, traditionally, been quite a tricky one for the Phoenix and, one we have struggled to get a good result from. This year, the Phoenix got their season off with a bang. A cracking 5-1 victory is a great result to bring home from Telford on opening night.

That result set up sundays game versus Sheffield to reward the victor with an early four point weekend. Sheffield's win against the Bees came at a cost. A very physical encounter by some accounts, Sheffield, missing Ben Morgan, lost Greg Wood to a spearing match penalty. This saw them come to the Dome missing some influential players. That being said, a game against Sheffield is no easy matter. The crowd gathered and, due to a wait for Yorkshire Mean Time, a little late the puck dropped and we were off! 

First Period: The game got underway with four officials and, even from the early stages, this game was not going to be like last weeks War of the Roses clash. The physicality just wasn't there, perhaps it was the players not icing for Sheffield? Perhaps it was having four officials on the ice but, it was noticeable this game was different. A pivotal moment happened just 6 minutes into the game too, Sedlar in the Steeldogs goal made an awkward save which appeared to hurt his groin. He played on for a minute but couldn't continue. Off the ice he went looking in quite a bit of pain, this thrust the Steeldogs 16 year old back up netminder, Thomas Barkworth. Quite the baptism for Thomas! The Phoenix were enjoying some pressure so it was no surprise the first goal came for the home side, at 10min 09sec Schanbel got the score board moving. Even though the Phoenix were bossing the opening stages the Steeldogs still had chances, and some damn quick players! After a turnover in the Steeldogs zone they raced up ice with a 2-on-1 advantage and Ashley Calvert scored a beauty of a goal to level the game at 13min 54sec. When ever you play Sheffield, there is one thing you can be certain of, powerplay opportunities! It was on a powerplay that the Phoenix got their second goal, Robin Kovar scoring his first in the Ice Dome at 15min 30sec. 

Second Period: With Sheffield's lines depleted the second period saw the Phoenix take the win effectively. With the short bench and with four officials on the Ice the Steeldogs could not play their normal game and, could not live with the Phoenix firepower on home ice. It didn't take long for the Phoenix to score again, the Phoenix third came from Jack Watkins at 21min 21sec. The Phoenix continued to apply pressure and were peppering the Sheffield goal with shots. The game also saw the Phoenix hit the posts numerous times, even saying that, the shooting was accurate. The next goal came at 23min 44sec when Bakrlik got on the scoresheet.  Boothroyd was next scoring on the powerplay with Payette sitting for 2 minutes, his goal at 29min 14sec. Sheffield then reminded everyone they were still there when Elliot left everyone for dead and scored a wonderful solo effort at 35min 13sec. This provoked the Phoenix back into action and Bakrlik would take less than 2 minutes to complete his first hattrick. His 2nd coming at 36min 23sec and his third, impossibly squeezed between Barkworth and his near post coming at 38min 38sec. The buzzer sounded and the teams went back to the locker rooms with the scores 7-2 Phoenix. 

Third Period: The final session saw Tony Hand take to the bench and the Phoenix job really was to see out the win. Less than two minutes into the period the home fans were celebrating again when Ben Wood took a shot from the blue line which beat Barkworth through the five hole, goal timed at 41min 43sec. The minutes ticket by as the game eased up and, after a time out taken by the Phoenix, Tony Hand put El-Hage in to see the game through. Robert Schnabel got his second goal of the game at 48min 18sec and, just 9 seconds later Andy McKinnie got his second too. Tony never likes to run up the score and im sure that was the message coming from the bench so, when the 11th went in it was almost an apologetic celebration from Boothroyd. His second of the game coming at 51min 29sec. The final minutes saw the teams go through the motions waiting the final buzzer. 

Verdict: A win against your rivals is always pleasing, grinding your rivals into the dirt is something to be savoured but, I just can't feel explosively ecstatic as this was a way below par Steeldogs side. With the likes of Wood/Morgan missing Sheffield really lose energy and drive from their line up. Add in the loss of Sedlar you remove that quality in between the pipes, the foundation on which you can play your game. Add in the fourth official on the ice and, Sheffield's usual chippy play was lessened. It was almost a perfect storm for Sheffield which the Phoenix were able to capitalise on. Taking no credit away from the Phoenix, it was a very good performance. The accuracy of shooting was excellent and some of the moves were fantastic. The issue for Sheffield now could be massive, the Phoenix know from experience a groin injury to your goalie can mean an extended period without your number 1! Losing your import goalie is even worse, that's a fair wage packet sat out through injury. If it's a short term thing, Payette could take the view to take the hit and continue with Barkworth and really design their game plan around protecting him. If it's a long injury lay-off, money has to be found for a new starter. Barkworth himself displayed enough to suggest, with development, he could become an EPL starter, he has the skill, he just needs time and polish to improve. Chin up lad! 

Attendance: Similar to the War of the Roses really, 1,100 in.

Phoenix 11 Sheffield 2 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix Four Point Weekend - MEN

Thursday, 12 September 2013

The Goal has been filled!

Next up, the Phoenix announced the returning goalie duo Jorge El-Hage and Stephen Fone: 

Jorge El-Hage 
Still only 19 Jorge is returning for his third season with the EPL Phoenix having spent his entire career to date with the Phoenix junior set-up. Along with Ben Wood, Jorge is an example of the Phoenix youth set up finally producing some EPL talent. Last season was quite a break through year for Jorge. With a long term injury to Fone he was thrust into the starters position and played a good month starting every game. He coped very well and, was only towards the end of this month, he began to struggle. He did prove, however, he has the basics to become a good EPL goalie. Those are hard to find and, can be very pricey! Jorge is big, can move around the net quickly, he just needs to work on his rebound control now. What last year did show, to the fans and to Tony Hand, is that Jorge can be relied upon should Fone need a rest. He really has become an essential piece of the Phoenix roster! 

Stephen Fone 
Stephen Fone, super star, back for his 5th season with the Phoenix. Unless someone like Lyle becomes available, Fone is the best of the rest in the EPL. Despite suffering a shoulder injury last term, he returned to backstop the Phoenix to 3rd in the league and a playoff victory. When Fone is fully fit, an argument can be made that he is one of the best in the EPL. He is a consistent performer and one who can, hopefully, remain with the Phoenix for a few more years yet. While the stats will show last season was not a brilliant one, 3.12 GAA and .897 save percentage it doesn't tell the whole story. Without the shoulder injury he would have posted better figures. 13/14 will be a good year for Fone im sure!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Phoenix v Steeldogs War Of The Roses 2nd Leg 8th September

It's been a long summer but, a busy one for the Budgie! You may have noticed from my twitter that I got married over the summer. A great time was had by all and, it certainly kept my mind off the lack of hockey! Now we are into September and Hockey is back with a bang! For the Phoenix, the roster has been assembled, I do still have posts to put online about the team, they will follow in time. It was time to kick off the 2013/14 season with the traditional War of the Roses clash with the Sheffield Steeldogs. 

First leg was over in Sheffield and saw the Steeldogs take a 5-2 lead after the first leg. 
With three goals to make up both teams arrived in Altrincham for the second leg along with a big crowd. Sheffield had the upper hand going into the game, not only on the scoreboard but, through their extended pre-season had more match fitness. That being said, there was still 60 minutes of hockey to be played! After not icing the previous night Tony Hand would lace up the boots and make his first appearance at home. 

First Period: It was clear from the first few seconds that Phoenix/Steeldogs games would be no different to last season. A very physical opening which contained an almost constant steam of players going to/from the penalty box saw very few 5 on 5 plays. Phoenix did take first blood when, with Greg Wood in the penalty box. Bakrlik scored his first in the Ice Dome with a lovely wrister from the blue line, goal timed at 4min 33sec. Robin Kovar assisted on the goal and would shortly leave the game. After Archer/Wood had words, Haywood and Kovar got involved and, despite the officials insistence, Kovar got his moneys worth on Haywood and was ejected from the game. A few minutes later, after both goalies had been tested thoroughly the Steeldogs were awarded a penalty shot, harshly in my view. Greg Chambers stepped up and showed his class to level the game, goal timed at 12min 03sec. A bit of hockey started to appear and the Phoenix looked to take control and reduce the deficit. Just before the end of the period the home side did just that, after a shot by Chong was not held by Sedlar McKinnie stepped in to score off the rebound. That joy was short lived when Kohorn tied the game again at 19min 03sec. 

Second Period: After the franticness of the first period the second was a much calmer affair. Some good hockey was played by both sides with Sedlar impressing greatly in the Steeldogs goal. When Sheffield face a side who are much better in terms of hockey they do fall back to a very solid D pattern. The two D and one forward in front of Sedlar. This makes it hard to get clear opportunities in and around the net. The onyl goal of the period came for the Phoenix at 39min 41sec, just before the buzzer, when Psurny finished off a great breakout move with Tony Hand. 

Third Period: 20 minutes to go and at least another two goals needed by the Phoenix. Sheffield got the next goal and, effectively, sealed the tie when Chambers scored a lovely top shelf effort at 50min 55sec. This guy is quality and really should still be in the EIHL, he stands out a mile, with Kohorn, on the Steeldogs roster. With Sheffield players still taking penalties the Phoenix were able to get their second PP goal of the game at 56min 40sec when Psurny scored a top corner goal from a tight angle. 

Verdict: A good home win for the Phoenix but, not enough to regain the Roses trophy. Sheffield did the hard work in the first leg, as they did last season. Credit to Sheffield, they work hard and despite taking many penalties work hard to protect Sedlar. Sedlar himself was my mom for the game, he saved at least 4 obvious goals, as did his posts with the Phoenix ringing the post 4 times! No complaints for me, Sheffield's extra match sharpness (from their extra pre-season games) shows. The Phoenix look good, however, and very quickly, once players have become accustomed to each other, will be very dangerous! 

Attendance: Im guessing a just over 1,000 in the Ice Dome 

Phoenix 4 Sheffield 3 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 4 Sheffield 3 - Steeldogs Article