The Phoenix current form is poor, theres now two ways about it! The current run has coincided with the head coach leaving to handle team GB, a long injury to Flaten and a long period of continuing absence for Phoenix number 1 goalie Steve Fone. For the past month or so El-Hage has been standing in and, considering he is a young backup goalie, he is working damn hard. Sadly all those circumstances has seen the Phoenix on a run of form rivalling the Telford Tigers at the foot of the EPL.
Perhaps, given all that, the Flames are the last team you would want to be facing but, at the same time they are the best. They are a team the loves to play hockey and, given how strong they are they would force the Phoenix to play their best from the first puck drop. This game fell slap bang in the middle of the school holidays which helped swell the crowd to the biggest of the season. Here's hoping the performance on the ice would match!
First Period: The crowd were in fine form and the game opened to some great noise from the stands. The hockey on the ice was up to the usual Pyro derby standards too. Great end to end action, Lee in the Flames net in fine form as the Phoenix pressed for the opener. The Flames would be the first to light the lamp though, Huppe broke into the Flames zone and, possibly the first time since he was thrust into the starters position El-Hage made a mistake. Allowed a gap to appear under his stick and Huppe gratefully slotted home. First goal timed at 3min 55sec. The game progressed, thankfully the early Flames goal didn't dishearten the Phoenix and they were back on level terms at 9min 21sec when Psurny scored. The period went on and both sides exchanged chances but no further goals.
Second Period: The Phoenix went into the first intermission on the powerplay, something this blog has moaned about in the past. Phoenix got the best start to the third period they could get. Cycling the puck round the boards, Boothroyd ghosted towards the back post and, after being found by Hand, scored in the empty net. His goal on the powerplay coming just 24 seconds into the period. The Phoenix continued to work hard and the Flames did their bit in the game. The Flames were dangerous on the break and looked to exploit the inexperienced El-Hage in goal. The Flames would take advantage of this and wrest control of the game from the Phoenix. Milos Melicherik scored the flames second to tie the game at 32min 51sec. Then Longstaff, was allowed time to bring the puck out from behind the goal, turn, and fire a shot past El-Hage, definitely a goal he will want back. The go ahead goal coming at 37min 20sec. Going into the second break Flames lead 3 goals to 2.
Third Period: The Phoenix had to press in the third period whilst also being mindful not to leave El-Hage out to dry. The Phoenix pressed and began to dominate the play, no clear chances on Lee came though and the period wore on. The big crowd was still in the game and worked to get the Phoenix fired up and score the goal. As time ticked by the Phoenix pressed and pressed, but the Flames would score the last, and most deflating goal, of the game. Heading into the final minute Kvetan had the puck and fired a hard clearance up ice, which hit the plexi behind El-Hage, only for it to bounce back and into the Phoenix net off El-Hage's back. So unfortunate and, in all my years of watching/playing Ice Hockey, I have only ever seen that type of goal scored twice! The final goal coming at 59min 10sec.
Verdict: Gutted to lose but, well done to the Flames they worked hard for the win the Phoenix, equally, did their bit. A point would have been deserved, definitely not the last goal though! This game brought the best out of the Phoenix and they were mightily unlucky to come from the game with a big fat zero. The big crowd was awesome too, I had two groups of newbies there and both, despite the result, are hooked and can't wait to come back.
Attendance: I've been reliably informed it was the biggest crowd of the season, looked it too. Im going to say around 1,800 in the Ice Dome.
Phoenix 2 Flames 4 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 2 Flames 4 - Flames Article