The Phoenix started 2014 with an away trip to the, current league leaders, Basingstoke Bison. The Bison are a tough team to play in their own rink but, with the quality the Phoenix have, we should be able to sneak the odd point from down there. Going in the Phoenix were not in best shape however. Bakrlik was still on the sidelines and, Steve Fone was not in best health. Young back up netminder Paul Maudsley would be handed his first EPL start, quite the baptism of fire! In the end the game was quite close for about 40mins but, a superb second period from the Bison won the game. The herd running out 5-2 winners.
Bison 5 Phoenix 2 - Bison Article
Bison 5 Phoenix 2 - Phoenix Article
Bison 5 Phoenix 2 - Basingstoke Gazette
So, the Phoenix returned to Altrincham, which has become a bit of a fortress recently, to try and get their first win of 2014 and remain in touch with the top of the table. Bakrlik was still out but Fone was back in between the pipes for the visit of the Swindon Wildcats who, had recently bolstered their roster with the return of Aaron Nell.
First Period: A fairly cagey opening period from both sides, the Wildcats playing the road game and trying to minimise the free space in their own zone. The Phoenix still lacking a little confidence meant their early passing was wayward. So no free flowing hockey, it was all a bit scrappy. The Phoenix did get on the board first after 5 minutes when Robin Kovar converted the Phoenix first powerplay opportunity, scoring at 5min 11sec. With neither team taking hold of the game there were chances both ways, Wildcats equilized when Kostal capped off a great move from the visitors which cut through the Phoenix D with worrying ease. His goal coming at 7min 59sec. When you look at Swindon play, they are fast in the forwards, Kostal looked good early on and Hoog slowly got himself into the game. Hoog would give the Wildcats the lead at 9min 16sec with a goal that rewarded the slight Swindon edge over the period.
Second Period: While the Phoenix were not at their best, while it was just a 1 goal deficit the Phoenix always had a chance to get back into the game. The Phoenix were working hard in the second period, they needed to help Fone out, while he was playing it was clear Fone was not 100% as he was givign up rebounds that were not being cleared. Over the period the Phoenix D were improving and, the forwards just began to click. The passing was making the stick rather than just behind/in front of the player. Within a 79sec period the Phoenix had wrestled the game back from the visitors. Michal Psurny scoring the Phoenix second at 30min 44sec, then Richie Bentham gave the home side the lead just 24sec later at 31min 08sec then Robin Kovar got his second of the game at 32min 03sec. A quite brilliant comeback!
Third Period: The Wildcats had to open up and go for it in the third period, which would work in the Phoenix favour. The Phoenix had done well in getting plenty of shots on Lyle and with Swindon needing to press, more chances would come. Early into the third period and Swindon made things interesting by lighting the lamp. Aaron Nell proving he is still a top top EPL forward, scoring at 43min 01sec. With the Wildcats cutting the deficit the Phoenix had to concentrate and not slip up. A powerplay opportunity gave the home side a perfect chance, and they converted yet again. Michal Psurny scoring after 45min 21sec. That PP goal sucked the life out of Swindon and the game settled down to run its course. Nearing 5 minutes to go the Phoenix added the icing to a good performance when Robin Kovar got his 3rd of the night at 54min 43sec.
Verdict: After a shaky start the Phoenix clamped down on their mistakes and blew Swindon away in an important second period performance. While the Phoenix need to work on taking points from their rivals they can, at least, rely on their home form. In the end a good performance. A quick note on Swindon, they have talent in goal, they have talent up front but, their D and defencive team work needs work. Lyle regularly faces the most shots in the league, the Phoenix put 54 on Lyle while Fone faced 28. Swindon need to cut down the number of shots Lyle is facing if they want success in the league and playoffs.
Attendance: A good crowd for the new year, 1,200
Phoenix 6 Wildcats 3 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 6 Wildcats 3 - Wildcats Article
Phoenix 6 Wildcats 3 - Bolton News
Phoenix 6 Wildcats 3 - Swindon Advertiser