The Angry Budgie Live

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Phoenix rise from the Flames to win Finals weekend!

'The Phoenix had, against the best team in the land, won the final dance of the season'
Re-wind about 24 hours and those same fans were filing into the Coventry SkyDome to watch the second semi-final of the day between the Basingstoke Bison and the Manchester Phoenix. Earlier in the day, the league winners, the Guildford Flames, had come through their encounter with the MK Lightning. The Flames did what title winning sides can do, win while not playing their best. Standing in the way of the Phoenix meeting them in Sunday's final were the Basingstoke Bison. A team the Phoenix had only beaten once this season and a team with possibly the league’s best goalie between the pipes.
On the flip side, the Phoenix could go into this game with little to lose. Most people in the arena would expect the Bison to win. So there was little expectation for us Phoenix fan's. Personally I thought we had a chance, but a small one. All would depend on the mood of the Bison goalie and what Manchester Phoenix would turn up. A fully fit, for once, Phoenix squad took the ice and took the game to the Bison. Scoring the first goal, I think, surprised a lot of people. The game was a close affair, the Phoenix played some good hockey and the game remained close throughout. After a 5 minute overtime session that produced no goals we went to the lottery of a penalty shootout. At this point I must admit to giving up a little bit. There was no way we could get past Lyle in the Bison goal on penalty shots? Surely? The first round saw each team score twice so extra shooters were needed. Phoenix went first through James Archer, attacking the goal at the far end from us Phoenix fans, James went up ice, deked and as Lyle slid across, time seemed to slow. After what felt like an age the red light went on, we all jumped up and exploded with delight, we knew that the Bison had to score or we were in the final. The Bison player/coach Doug Sheppherd would take the crucial shot. He attacks the goal right in-front of us, comes in, puts a fake on Fone in our goal and lifts the puck...........clang..........the puck hits the plexi behind the goal. Phoenix are through to the final and we all went mad!
Sunday saw many a sore head come back for the final. The Phoenix second appearance at the final game in as many years. This time, our lads would take on the league winners. Guildford Flames are the big spenders of our hockey league and as a result have strength in depth like no other. We are allowed 4 'import' players, Guildford have 5 and some of the top British players in this country. On paper the Flames have the obvious advantage but, one thing in our favour, the Flames like to play hockey. In games of proper hockey the Phoenix always have a chance! It would be tough but, the Phoenix had a great chance of securing a different outcome to that final 12 months ago.
In the run up to the game it was obvious that, every supporter in the arena, bar Guildford fans, wanted the Phoenix to win. 'Anyone but Guildford, anyone but Guildford la laa laa laa' was the chant. Which gave us a great feeling, we had all the support, we just hoped our guys could put on a show now!
Against the Guildford Flames, the Phoenix always bring out their best. These games are great adverts for Ice Hockey in this country and the final was no different. From the first puck drop both sides went at the game fast and strong. From the early exchanges the Phoenix were edging the play. Even surprising the Flames are how hard they came playing. To win the trophy the Phoenix really needed to score first and they did, on the power play too! The arena erupted as the Phoenix fans at one end went mad. The teams captain Luke Boothroyd ghosted round the back of the play to be found open for a back post tap in. Great goal! The Phoenix continued to press and forecheck the Flames while not allowing a goal. By the end of the first session the Phoenix were ahead 1-0.

The Phoenix carried on their great form and struck hard in the second period with James Archer scoring a fantastic breakaway effort, then the Phoenix scored a real heart breaker for the Flames. A short handed effort from Barri McKenzie.
Flames needed a quick start to the third and they got it, scoring just 40 seconds into the period. Us Phoenix fans started looking at each other with some nerves hoping this was not the start of a comeback! We needn't have worried! A perfect reply to the Flames goal, the Phoenix scored another shorthanded effort. Tony Hand skating in was passed the puck and, just around the faceoff spot unleashed a howitzer of a slapshot high above Mark Lee (Guildford goalie) right shoulder. In a rare show of emotions from Tony he jumped up into the plexi in front of us. We all knew how big that goal was! To make things even better, Phoenix standout import forward Michal Psurny scored and exact replica of Hand's earlier effort to make it 5-1 Phoenix. This is when we really believed and, despite the Flames pulling a goal back, with the clock running down the team and fans alike began to revel in victory. When the final buzzer went we all went mad. 10 years or the Phoenix, so many times the bridesmaids or the nearly men, the Phoenix had done it and won their first playoff trophy.

The feeling after the game and in the pub's after was of shock, after so many years we had actually done it, actually won! We were all just relaxing and smiling. Sad that the 2012/13 EPL season had now ended but, what a way for it to end! I only hope the pictures show how much fun we had!

Thanks must go to Richard Allen, official Phoenix photographer for the pictures!

Friday, 5 April 2013

Phoenix v Bracknell Bees Playoff Quarter Final 31st March Game Review

Well, it's that time of year again! Playoff hockey time! Beards are grown, hotels booked, drinking budget calculated. There's no other time like playoff time. The Phoenix ended their EPL regular season on a bit of a damp squib with two games where big leads were lost. Despite this a playoff quarter final beckoned against the Bracknell Bees. A much more preferable match up than against the Wildcats it has to be said. The Phoenix would face a tough away leg down in Bracknell before returning to the Ice Dome for one last time this season.

The Phoenix could well do a job down in Bracknell but, the main thing, would be to keep the scores close. As Tambo mentioned on the Phoenix podcast, the Bees have conceded on average 3.9 goals a game. Keep the scores tight and the Phoenix will be in with a great shot. So the away leg, from reports, sounded like the Phoenix struggled a little. Steve Fone putting in a man of the match performance as it ended 4-3 to the Bracknell Bees.

One last time the Phoenix faithful descended on the Altrincham Ice Dome, personally, I wasn't worried. Im not too sure why either, the Bees had the lead, Phoenix have struggled defensively but, over 6 periods of hockey we surely had too much fire-power for the Bees. Surely Tony would not allow another lacklustre performance and make sure the Phoenix made it to Coventry?

First Period: Phoenix had to come out and control the game from the first whistle, score the first goal and the aggregate scores are level. Allow the Bees to score and that hill, becomes a little more difficult to overcome. For most of the first period the Phoenix controlled puck possession and camped out in the Bees zone. They did get the first goal with a gorgeous powerplay effort from Flaten, great to see him on the scoreboard as goals have been hard to come by for the Norwegian, goal timed at 12min 33sec. The period progressed and the Phoenix domination continued, Annetts being put under more and more pressure as the Phoenix looked to take the lead. With almost perfect timing they did just that! With just two seconds to go in the period Flaten, again, scored to give the Phoenix the lead overall. A great shot through the five hole with no chance for the Bees to post a reply. 2-0 up on the night after the first period, controlling the game, the perfect start for the Phoenix.

Second Period: With the lead overall now obtained the Phoenix just had to concentrate, control the game and win each period. In some ways this session of 20minutes would decide our playoff fate. Thankfully the team were up-for-it and controlled the puck again for the majority of the period. In the first and now the second period the Phoenix had done well to stay out of the penalty box. With the Bees in penalty trouble the Phoenix got their third of the night. On the powerplay Robert Schnabel took the puck from behind the Phoenix net and started a mazy run up the ice. It seemed like no Bees player was willing or able to stop him and as he breached the zone he unleashed a lovely wrist shot to put the Phoenix up 3-0. The goal coming at 27min 27sec. The Phoenix really took hold of the game when they scored their fourth of the game. Andy McKinnie scoring late on in the period at 29min 58. This was just after a controversial moment in the game. After some pushing and shoving in front of the Phoenix net Spearing paired off with Pozivil goading him into a fight. Both players were in each others faces and Pozivil made a small head-butting motion, no contact was made it has to be said. Spearing sat a 2+10 misconduct while Pozivil was ejected with a 10+match for headbutting. Disappointing for Pozivil, an appeal is on the cards and he will, hopefully, be able to play finals weekend.

Third Period: The third period saw more goals scored, the Bees had to open up and press for goals if they had any hope of reaching Coventry. The Bees made a good start scoring early in the period at 42min 01sec on the powerplay through Bronniman. A shot from Bendik was tipped in by Ollie, a lovely tip in actually! The Phoenix answered back quickly when Schabel got his second of the game at 45min 28sec. Bees got their second goal of the game at 50min 07sec through Smital on the powerplay. The Phoenix, however, hit back and killed off the game with two more goals, both on the powerplay. The Phoenix 6th came at 51min 10 through Luke Boothroyd and the 7th at 57min 04sec through McKinnie's second of the game. The Phoenix running out 7-2 winners and progression to finals weekend.

Verdict: A potentially tricky tie negotiated with some ease in the second leg. A good game for the Phoenix to banish recent defencive troubles and a great weekend for Fone to get back up to match speed. It was disappointing to loose Pozivil, I only hope he can play this weekend. I would hate for his last game of the season to end on such a negative note. In the end it was a commanding performance from the Phoenix and a beautiful rendition of 'Que sera sera, what ever will be will be, were going to Coventry, Que sera sera' rang out round the Ice Dome!

Attendance: Back to a more average crowd for the Phoenix, around 1,100 in.

Phoenix 7 Bracknell 2 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 7 Bracknell 2 - Bees Article
Phoenix 7 Bracknell 2 - The Bolton News
Phoenix 7 Bracknell 2 - Cheshire Today