The Angry Budgie Live

Friday, 29 November 2013

Phoenix v Basingstoke Bison 24th November

Just the one game over last weekend for the Phoenix, the Bison were the visitors to Altrincham. Sans Lyle the Bison are still challenging at the top of the EPL table. Heading into the game against the Phoenix, the Bison had gone two games without conceding a goal. Quite an impressive record and, perhaps, a return to the defensive strength we came to know last season? 

With no game saturday for the home side the Phoenix should be fully rested, the Bison came into the game after hammering the Phantoms 6-0. Should be a good un then? 

First Period: The first target, for home fans, was not to conceded early goals. Thankfully, the Phoenix didn't! The home side quickly asserted their dominance, they looked to nullify the Bison's physical threat and that seemed to stop most of the Bison threat. Even in the early stages it was obvious the Phoenix had started brightly and it would take a big effort from the visitors to take anything from the game. Skinns was performing very well in goal and Fone was turning aside anything the Bison had to offer. The first goal did come for the home side, what a goal it was too! Frantisek Bakrlik took the puck around the point and unleashed a mighty shot which found Skinns five hole. It was such a strong shot I immediately though of Jeremy Clarkson and his 'poooweeeeerrrrrr' phrase, totally apt in this case! The first goal coming at 13min 33sec, the advantage was extended 4 minutes later when Bakrlik got his second at 17min 33sec. 

Second Period: So, 2-0 Phoenix and the home side looking relatively un-troubled for the first session. Bison had to do something and, up the physical play to try and nock the Phoenix from their stride. The Phoenix made a quick start to the second period when James Archer put the home side 3-0 up at 21min 20sec. A quick re-group for the visitors? Through the second period it did not look like the Bison had changed or been able to change their play. The Phoenix were then hit with a couple of penalties in quick succession, the home side were outstanding in their penalty kill. Giving the Bison absolutely nothing! The Phoenix also scored a lovely short handed goal during this time. A quick break saw Tony Hand skating up the right wing with James Archer busting a gut on the left wing to create a chance. A gorgeous floated cross ice pass from Hand found Archer free at the back post to light the lamp. The SHG coming at 36min 01sec. The dominance continued and, in the dying seconds of the period, the Phoenix added a 5th goal. Timed at 39min 28sec Frantisek Bakrlik got his hattrick goal. 

Third Period: With the home side 5 goals ahead the third period was not as intense. It almost seemed like both sides had accepted the result and just wanted to get through to the end. There was still no major fight back from the Bison, I had expected my chippy/rough play in the third in an effort to get something going. The Phoenix added a 6th goal at 57min 24sec when Psurny got his reward for another good performance. The Phoenix now had about 2 minutes to try and get Fone a SO. It was looking good until the 1 minute to go mark. The Bison finally got some pressure on the Phoenix goal and managed to get Fone moving post to post. Doug Sheppard was found on the back post and, his shot was almost saved by Fone, but looped agonizingly slowly over the Phoenix goalie into the corner of the net. The Bison goal coming at 58min 56sec. 

Verdict: I must admit, I was disappointing with the Bison performance. There is alot more to their play than they showed sunday night, the Bison have schooled the Phoenix in Altrincham before but this was far from it. I think too many players had off nights or just were not there. I was also surprised they did not get more physical during the game. Many teams have found when they nock the Phoenix around, it disrupts their rhythm and frustrates them. Perhaps it was the long bus ride, perhaps the Phoenix were just fresher but, it was a dominating display from the home side! Play like that for the rest of the season and we will be challenging for that title sure enough! 

Attendance: A good crowd for the game, i'll say 1,100 in the Ice Dome.

Phoenix 6 Bison 1 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 6 Bison 1 - MEN Article
Phoenix 6 Bison 1 - Bison Article 

Also for your audio pleasure, the third EPL hockey podcast.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Phoenix v Swindon Wildcats 16th November

Up next for the Phoenix was a saturday home game versus the Swindon Wildcats. This would only be the second meeting between to two sides this EPL season. The Phoenix skating away with a win in the only game, previously, down in Swindon. It has been a mixed season so far for the Wildcats coming off a summer where they lost one star and gained another. Out went Aaron Nell to the EIHL and in came Stevie Lyle. While Jonas Hoog has remained the Wildcats will miss the production of one of the best British forwards in the UK at the moment. Lyle's arrival, partly to be closer to home, has seen an upgrade in goaltending. New import Juha Silvander has also been released early into the season. 

So, a new look Swindon team came to the Ice Dome and we, fans, all congregated at a chilly Ice Dome. 

First Period: The puck dropped and off we went, except, someone forgot to tell the Phoenix! Before a stunned home crowd the Wildcats had raced to a 2-0 lead just 91 seconds into the game. Unfortunately, the Phoenix were napping for both goals. Swindon, to give them their credit, were switched on and took their chances well. With Swindon, if you can shut down their top line, they struggle...yeah we didn't do that in the first 5 minutes! After losing possession around the Swindon blue line the Wildcats broke, quickly, up ice and the puck was fed to Hoog. He took the puck down the left wing and unleashed a wicked shot from the top of the face off circle right past Fone. Just 60 seconds later Swindon did it again. A deflected put was launched up ice, with a high bounce over the centre circle. Ben Wood for the Phoenix had his eye on it but, didn't come forward and deal with it allowing the puck to bounce. The puck bounced dead, perfectly for Symonds who took a shot through Wood and into Fone's net. Steve wont be happy with conceding two goals from long shots. That said, 91seconds in, Swindon held a deserved lead! The Phoenix had to wake up and, they slowly did. As the period progressed the Phoenix pressed Lyle and the Swindon net and, were rewarded at 6min 46sec, when Psurny got the home side on the board. The Phoenix continued to warm up and begin to dominate possession but, Swindon looked potent and fast on the break. Phoenix would have to keep their concentration to get something from this game. 

Second Period: The Phoenix continued to press in the second period but, found Lyle to be just as good as ever. The switch from Basingstoke to Swindon has seen Lyle face more shots, so far this year, the second period was no different! The Phoenix were getting plenty of rubber on Lyle but nothing too testing. A netminder of his quality will eat up shots from the perimeter all day. While Swindon could not keep the Phoenix out all the time, the home side were not picking up on the re-bounds either.The Phoenix needed to get Lyle moving, which is what they did for their first goal. The Phoenix scored the only goal of the period at the midway point. Some slick passing had the Wildcats losing structure in their zone and Archer was found at the hash marks and he found the smallest of gaps between Lyle's legs. Game now tied up and back to square one. The home crowd expected now, the home side had the quality to score goals, they just had to prevent turnovers giving the Wildcats fast breakout chances. 

Third Period: The final period matched much of the second. Phoenix with chances on Lyle while trying to limit Swindon breaking up ice. The Wildcats are a good team but, perhaps, rely on Hoog too much now. Their main threat comes from that top line. They can rely on Lyle to a certain extent too, the Bison did, but the Cats are not as well organised as the Bison and, as a result, allow more chances than the Bison. There was only one goal in the third period, it came for the home side, once again mid way through the period. At 51min 49sec Frantisek Bakrlik put the home side ahead for the first time with a well taken goal. With the clock counting down,  Lyle looked to the bench for the extra skater but, the Wildcats just couldn't get control in the Phoenix zone until the final few seconds. The clock ran down, the whistle went and the home side won. 

Verdict: While the early goals were a concern, I was not worried at all. Yes 2-0 after 91 seconds is bad but, that left 58min 29sec for the Phoenix to find three goals. With the quality we have, that was entirely possible. Stevie Lyle is still top drawer but, he needs a good team in front to be a brick wall. Swindon just are not that team, Lyle faced a season high of 60 shots in the game. With that many shots, the odds are the other team will score. The only thing I'd have like to see the Phoenix do more, would be to get Lyle moving post to post more. He is great facing head on shots but, get him travelling and that's where chances come from! 

Attendance: Saturday nights never produce the biggest crowds at the Ice Dome and, this was no exception. I would say 800 in the Ice Dome. 

Phoenix 3 Swindon 2 - Phoenix Article

Phoenix then travelled down to Guildford sunday for a top of the table clash with the Flames. The game was tight until the first half of the final period where the Flames scored 3 unanswered to take hold. Despite a late consolation, the Phoenix would head north pointless. 

Guildford 4 Phoenix 2 - Phoenix Article
Guildford 4 Phoenix 2 - MEN Article
Guildford 4 Phoenix 2 - Flames Article

One final link for you all, the second ever Angry Budgie Podcast is available for your listening pleasure.....or not! Haha!

Friday, 15 November 2013

Phoenix v Sheffield Steeldogs 10th November

The EPL season continues it's relentless march, now well into November the ice hockey fan enters it's more familiar surroundings. The cold, wet nights of an English winter. The Phoenix weekend meant a long trip south saturday night to the hangar in Slough to take on old friends, Koulikov/Long and the Jets. Sunday would see our friends from the east the Sheffield Steeldogs come to town. Against the Jets the Phoenix have a winning record, including the blowout result of 12-2 in Altrincham. Putting that aside the games have been close and, saturday night's would be no exception. 3-3 going into overtime, Bakrlik found his scoring boots to win the Phoenix the extra point. A good start to the weekend but Sheffield would be another tough test. 

The Steeldogs were another team who faced the Phoenix early onslaught and, the series so far has been in favour of the Phoenix. A bit more background to sunday nights game was a bet made between Tambo (off of Phoenix TV) and Andre Payette. For the game in Sheffield a week prior, if Steeldogs won - Tambo would wear a Steeldogs jersey all game in Altrincham, if Phoenix win - Andre would wear the Phoenix children in need shirt for warmup and post match interviews. Well, the Phoenix won 5-3 so we all looked forward to sunday night. Credit to Andre, he is a man of his word! He duly appeared in his Phoenix jersey, which is now up for auction on ebay! (put ebay link) 

Anyway, sunday rolled round and we all set off for the Ice Dome and, come 5.30pm, the puck dropped on the next 'war of the roses' instalment. 

First Period: We all know how Sheffield play, uncompromising physicality. They do, however, have some talent and skill on the roster. In Janis Ozolins they had one of the best players to play in the EPL. Last year and this, the scoring mantle has fallen to Lubomir Korhon. He of the tricky hands and white gloves. The Phoenix felt the full force of his skill in the first period. In fact, it took the Steeldogs less than a minute to score the first goal. It wasn't a poor opening from the Phoenix but, Sheffield worked to create the chance and Korhon executed brilliantly! Scoring the opening goal after 44sec. Any early worry caused by this in the home crowd was set to be just 26sec later when Michal Psurny brought the home side level. Puck possession was fairly even in the first period even though the Phoenix were edging the shot count. Steeldogs scored the next goal when Korhon got his second of the game, timed 15min 16sec. While Sheffield were leading on the scoreboard Callum Pattison had offered Andy McKinnie out again, a hangover from the last game over in Sheffield. This time with a nod from Tony, McKinnie obliged and we had one of the better recent fights seen at the Ice Dome. McKinnie more than edged the fight, connecting with a fair few punches. Definite win for McKinnie, one to watch on Phoenix TV! Buoyed by the fight the Phoenix tried hard to go into the break even stevens but couldn't quite do it. 

Second Period: 2-1 to Sheffield was not a worrying scoreline, the Phoenix had more than enough quality to claw it back. But, you never know! Thankfully the second period would turn out to be a real purple patch for the home side. While on the penalty kill, Kovar was found high up ice with a lovely pass out of the defensive zone to go 1 on 1 with Sedlar. Kovar pulled off a fantastic finish and lifted the roof at 27min 21sec scoring a short handed equaliser. With the scores level the game continued to be quite close, Phoenix were getting some shots in on Sedlar but he was proving to be a good match. Sheffield were doing well in keeping the Phoenix honest and not letting the home side run away with things. Then, a powerplay opportunity blew that thinking out of the water. Going on the powerplay the Phoenix scored the go-ahead goal at 37min 03sec, Psurny getting his second. That goal kicked off a mad two minute eight second period where the Phoenix sealed the game. Bakrlik got himself scoring again with a gorgeous wrister at 37min 25sec, Ben Wood got in on the scoring action with a breakaway goal at 38min 52sec, Bakrlik settled his hat-trick with goals at 38min 52sec and 39min 11sec. Shortly after it could have been number 7 with Kovar missing the post by fractions of an inch. Sheffield were shocked, Sedlar was hung out to dry and the Phoenix were dominating. 

Third Period: The Phoenix noticeably eased off in the final session, Sheffield replaced Sedlar with Day and looked to restore some pride. A quick goal in the third period from Calvert ensured the scoreboard looked a little better. Sheffield's second goal coming at 51min 12sec. Phoenix were hunting more goals but, without any pressing urgency were not testing Day enough for me. Day, to give him credit, was working hard in goal and was making some good saves. As the period wore on the game began to wind down as the home side looked to secure the points. Sheffield would light the lamp one final time with 9 seconds to go when Gibson go their 4th of the night. 

Verdict: Potentially a very tricky game, but that second period blitz was simply awesome. It was good to see Bakrlik back on the scoresheet as he has been struggling for goals a little recently. McKinnie took his fight well and scored a win in that respect. Overall the Phoenix were good value for the win, they had more quality on show than Sheffield, more shots, and that usually means a win. Credit to Andre for honouring his bet too! Please take a look at all the Children in Needs shirts and see if any take your fancy! 

Attendance: A good crowd for the derby game, i'll say 1,200 in the Ice Dome. 

Phoenix 6 Sheffield 4 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 6 Sheffield 4 - Steeldogs Article
Phoenix 6 Sheffield 4 - The Bolton News

As if all that was not enough, The Angry Budgie has now gone podcasting. Im trying not to be Phoenix focused with it so its more about the EPL as a whole. I hope it's worth a listen! If you have any comments let me know @theangrybudgie on twitter!

The Angry Budgie EPL Podcast

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Phoenix v MK Lightning 3rd November

With the Phoenix back to winning ways the hope would be for another good weekend to solidify the form and keep pace with Guildford/Basingstoke at the top of the EPL table. The next weekend of games saw the Phoenix make the short trip across t'hills to take on the Steeldogs before welcoming the MK Lightning to the Ice Dome sunday. The trip across the hills proved to be a fruitful one as the Phoenix returned with a fantastic 5-3 victory. 

With a good win under the belts to start the weekend the Phoenix had the Lightning to contend with next. Games against the Lightning are tough, they can be physical but they will be entertaining! The Phoenix were without James Neil, who had suffered an injury in Sheffield, the Lightning were without Adam Carr and Lewis Christie so both sides were a little short benched. 

First Period: The early exchanges were quite close, the Phoenix had the slight edge but were not getting much joy on Wall. The Lightning worked hard, and carved out a few break out chances. The Lightning got the first goal of the game and, it had been coming to be fair! With just 3min 27sec the Lightning broke up ice and Jamieson was on hand to score the games opening goals. As frustrating as it was for us Phoenix fans, it was a well taken goal. It did not get better for the home side, almost a carbon copy of the first, MK stretched their lead to 2. At 8min 25sec the speedy Joklia was the next MK player to capitalise on a Phoenix turnover to break up ice and score. The Phoenix were not playing badly at all, in fact they had most of the puck. The turnovers were their undoing so far in the game! With MK now two goals to the good the Phoenix needed to tighten up their defence but keep working. The efforts paid off when James Archer got the home side on the board at 12min 57sec when he scored a fantastic 5-hole effort from the hash marks. He had worked hard to get into some space and when he was found with the puck he reacted quicker than everyone else to get the shot away. This lifted the team and the crowd and it was no surprise that the Phoenix pulled themselves level. At 15min 02sec, the Phoenix cycled the puck in the MK zone, drew a penalty and, with the extra player on the ice, Kovar scored a delayed penalty goal. With the game level it almost felt like we were back to square one. Both sides trading chances as the period wound down. 

Second Period: Games against MK are always fun to watch. Much like games against Guildford they can be filled with some fantastic end to end hockey. MK games have a more physical edge to them, simply through the different roster make up, and that always adds a certain spice to proceedings. The second period did not see a goal fest but some good play none the less. Both sides had some good chances but Fone and Wall were in good form. The one goal of the period fell to the Phoenix and nudged them out to a 3-2 lead. Scored at 28min 18sec Luke Boothroyd continued his scoring exploits this season with a fine strike. The other noticeable thing through the period was the rising levels of physicality and, the apparent lack of intervention by the referee. You could tell, as the players were chatting to each other that tension was building. 

Third Period: That level of physical play continued in to the third period but, it did not stop a couple of goals being scored. Phoenix scored at 44min 55sec through Sir Toe Knee of Hand, deciding to take a shot and scoring a wonderful goal actually. That capped off a great 4 goal comeback from the Phoenix.  MK would not let things go all Phoenix' way though. With the 5min to go mark gone the Lightning pressure told and Lascek scored to bring them to within one. Goal scored at 55min 22sec. With that the chippy levels reached breaking point and a line brawl broke out. For MK this was perfect, McPherson and Schnabel paired off as did Kovar and Zatopek. In both cases the Phoenix players owned the fights. Kovar in particular went to town on Zatopek and owned him completely. MK didn't care though, after the dust had settled, Kovar/Zatopek were sat for 2+2 respectively and Schnabel/McPherson were gone for 3rd man in and incitement respectively. So, even though they lost both fights, MK benefited from getting a Phoenix import D off the ice for the last 4 mins or so. Things got better for the away team as, soon after the re-start McKinnie was sat for a tripping penalty. 5 on 4 and then, as time ticked down, 6 on 4 as MK pulled Wall. The Phoenix were able to hold on though and secure a 4-3 win. 

Verditc: A great game and another entertaining instalment of the Phoenix v MK series. Glad to get the win and another 4 point weekend the Phoenix were made to work hard for that win. The fights were a highlight and, wow, Kovar, what a beast. I really think he is becoming a vital cog in the Phoenix machine. Such a good stick handler with the puck and willing to stick up for his teammates and hold his own in a fight too! 

Attendance: A decent crowd in the ice dome, I'll say 1,000! 

Phoenix 4 MK 3 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 4 MK 3 - MK Article

Friday, 1 November 2013

Phoenix v Bracknell Bees 27th October

After the last weekend's struggles which saw the Phoenix take just a point from the weekend, the Phoenix would take on the Bees in a double header. The weekend would pit the two sides against each other, the previous time, seeing the Phoenix eliminate the Bees on their way to last seasons playoff championship win. Over the summer the Bees have re-built and, going off reports from previous games, have a hard working and physical side. The game down at the hive would be another close one and, yet another game for the Phoenix going the distance and then some! 60 minutes of hockey could not separate the teams, neither could the 5 minutes of OT. This game would be settled on the dreaded penalty shootout. A real lottery to decide the extra point, on this occasion it was the Bees who prevailed, winning 3-2! 

The game up in Altrincham would see the two teams meet again and battle it out for another valuable two points. Would it go the way of the Bees and give them a four point weekend or, would it go the way of the Phoenix and rescue a weekend which could see another weekends efforts rewarded with a single point? 

First Period: The Telford Tigers, in the previous home game, worked hard at disrupting the Phoenix in centre ice. This worked well in frustrating the Phoenix and upsetting their rhythm. The Bees did not quite pull this off during the game but, during the first period, their hard work and solid D helped keep the Phoenix chances low.  The home side enjoyed more shots on goal in this game but found Mettam in goal in fine form. The deadlock was broken at 7min 45sec with the Phoenix on the powerplay. Some good perimeter passing worked the Bees D out of shape before the puck found it's way to Bakrlik who rifled a shot past Mettam. The Phoenix and Bees traded a few chances each but the Phoenix were edging the play in the first period. The clock wound down towards the end of the period and the Bee's decided to play party pooper and take the edge off the Phoenix momentum. With just 42sec left in the period Grant Rounding brought them level when he found some space and scored. A very well worked goal, despite having the edge on the period as a whole (the Phoenix) a 1-1 score was about right. 

Second Period: The period began much like the first with the Phoenix enjoying more of the chances but, not really getting quality through on Mettam. The Bees were no mugs mind, they bided their time, defending solidly and looked to capitalise on the break. When they did so they found Steve Fone in fine form. It was through this period it became clear, the Phoenix really need to work on a plan B! The usual free flowing hockey was being frustrated by the hard work and dedication of the Bees unit. The period wore on and it would be down to the last minutes before another goal was scored. The home side edged in front just before the break when James Archer put the Phoenix 2-1 up at 38min 26sec.

Third Period: Un surprisingly the third period was much like the second. The Bees working hard to minimise clear chances and the Phoenix frustrated by Mettam when they were able to get shots on. The Bees got themselves level in the game at 45min 21sec when Grant Rounding scored on the powerplay. With the scores at 2-2 many of the crowd could be forgiven for allowing a few nerves to surface. Would the Bees nick a winner late on? Are we going to overtime again? It was not like the Phoenix were not trying. For the remaining 15 minutes the Phoenix were constantly nocking on the door. They had numerous close chances, shots that just didn't quite come off the tape 100% passes just not quite there, as the clock wound down it seemed obvious no further goals were going to come. 

Overtime: So OT it was, again! 4 on 4 the Phoenix upped the pressure again in the extra period but Mettam was standing on his head. Despite a few close calls neither side could break the deadlock, leading to penalty shots. 

Penalty Shots: Possibly the worst penalty shot performance I have ever seen......from both sides! We had got through 5 rounds of attempts before Robert Schabel stepped up and fired a stonking shot past Mettam to give the Phoenix the win. While both goaltenders performed very well, the shots on offer from the skaters were very poor! 

Verdict: The weekend could have ended with a loss for the Phoenix making it 4 on the bounce. Thankfully it didn't! The Phoenix held on for the win and a 3 point weekend. Doesn't sound too bad does it Phoenix fans? What worries me about the past two home games is, against teams who play flowing hockey, ie, Flames/Bison/MK etc..the Phoenix are brilliant and can more than match those teams. It's games against Sheffield/Telford and the Bees where I worry a little. These are teams who don't play with open hockey in mind, They are grafters, teams who work hard centre ice and hold a solid D core in their own zone. This game and the game against Telford showed, the Phoenix need to work on a  game plan for those type of teams. I am happy we won, that much is certain, I just hope Sir Toe Knee is working on an effective plan b! 

Attendance: I'll say around 900 in the Ice Dome.

Phoenix 3 Bracknell 2 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 3 Bracknell 2 - Bees Article