The Angry Budgie Live

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

Shirt Launch and New Players

Way way behind on Phoenix player announcements but, I am planning a few posts over the next week or so to really catch up. First of those were the two players announced at the Phoenix shirt launch event. Held at the Cresta Court Hotel on the night Andy Murray won Wimbledon. Well done fella! Anyway....over a hundred fans packed the largest conference room at the hotel and waited. After the welcome back messages the first of the two new signings were announced: 

James Neil 
A big roar of appreciation went up when James Neil was announced as the first player returning on the night, sporting one of the new Phoenix shirts for the 13/14 season Neil joined the top table to answer a few questions. Im really really pleased James Neil has returned for his 5th season with us. Seeing as though Josh Ward returned to the Panthers I had worried that James would be the next to return to the mother club. He hasn't which is definitely our gain. Now firmly settled on the blue line James is edging into the pool of top Brits in the EPL and a guy who could easily play on any roster in this league. Last season he was slightly down on points but he was consistent none the less. He has developed his game further and is one of the best skaters and stick handlers on the blue line, which more than makes up for his smaller height and build. Welcome back James! 

Jack Watkins 
The second and last player announcement on the night was, brother of Tom Watkins, Jack. Quite an un-known player for most Phoenix fans in attendance. Jack has 'played around' quite a bit given his young age. The Phoenix will be his 7th club in his short career. Despite this he is a player with potential, spending the past three seasons in the EIHL playing full seasons with each team he has come to the Phoenix in the EPL, probably, for the guaranteed ice time this level of hockey can provide. With a good season here under his belt im sure the EIHL will come a calling very soon! I will admit to knowing nothing about Jack so, I will be looking forward to seeing him on the Ice come september! 

Shirt Launch - Phoenix Article