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!