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 wait...play 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