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:
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