The EPL Cup Semi Final first leg was held in the Coventry SkyDome, the temporary home of the MK Lightning. The two legged affair would be keenly contested between the two sides and the result in the first leg would go a massive way to deciding the result. In the early stages of the third period it looked signed, sealed and delivered for MK to the final. At the time they were 5-2 up. Then, either it was a massive collapse of an amazing turnaround for the Phoenix but, in the last 3 minutes the Phoenix hauled it back to tie it up 5-5 as the buzzer sounded. Setting the tie up perfectly for the 2nd leg in Altrincham.
First Period: The second leg in Altrincham got off to a fast start, with both sides putting some great moves together. It was obvious from the outset this would be another close game. MK got the scoring underway with a goal at 5min 55sec through Joklia. Worrying this was another poor D zone turnover for the Phoenix. Something that is becoming a bit of a habit for the Phoenix! Even though MK scored first there was not a feeling of impending doom in the stands, the Phoenix had done enough to show they could create scoring chances. The Phoenix did level it up, at 11min 16 through James Neil. Not the first name when you think of scorers on the Phoenix bench, but Neil took his goal well. About a minute later the Phoenix took the lead when Frantisek Bakrlik picked up the puck and put a lovely deke on Wall to slide home at 12min 36sec. This time the Phoenix closed out the period without conceding a late goal. End of the first period, advantage Phoenix.
Second Period: Much like the Sheffield game, the early composure showed by the Phoenix seemed to disappear in the second period. MK came back into the game and started to pressure the Phoenix into making mistakes. It was on a Phoenix powerplay that MK would capitalise and score a short handed goal. Lascek scoring at 24min 52sec. Halfway through the period MK took the lead in the game and the tie when MK captain Carr scored at 30min 59sec. Phoenix fans had begun to loose some heart but for Luke Boothroyd to restore parity scoring at 35min 17sec on the powerplay. There was some controversy over this goal with claims of a player being in the crese, nothing was ruled and the goal stood. The Phoenix D lapses surfaced again when Carr scored again on a tight angle on Fone's nearside post, goal timed at 36min 06sec. The D failed and Fone should not have been beaten on his near post, very disappointing! What made it worse was, shortly after, the Phoenix thought they had tied the game but, this time, the goal was washed out for a man in the crease. End of the second, advantage MK.
Third Period: 20 minutes to save the tie the Phoenix pressed MK hard. Wall was performing heroics in goal keeping the Phoenix at bay. One goal was scored and it was that man, James Neil again. On the powerplay a strong shot trickled under Wall and the Phoenix had tied the game at 44min 46sec. As the period progressed the Phoenix began to edge the game and look the more likely to take the win. Having said that, MK did threaten and have more than enough skill to hurt a team if a mistake is forced. End of the period, no advantage, back to square one!
Overtime: The final stanza of open hockey began with both teams pressing each other while in possession. The Phoenix were pressed back into their own zone and, awfully, yet another D zone turnover cost the home side their first crack at the EPL cup. Hero of the game James Neil suddenly became the villain when a poor clearing pass trickled out to the hash marks for Lascek to pick up and score. The game winner timed at 61min 03sec.
Verdict: James Neil will be the villain of the piece but, and criticism levelled at him personally is not justified. The Phoenix, through their own lapses in D cost the game. At least 3 of MK's goals were stone cold gifted by Phoenix giveaways. Of the three games I have now seen since coming back from honeymoon this trend is worrying. While being in for all three cup's, if the Phoenix cannot iron out their defencive wobbles, they could end the season empty handed. A very frustrating loss, a game which the Phoenix could have won comfortably gifted to the visitors. Ah well, next!
Attendance: Around 700 in the Ice Dome.
Phoenix 4 MK 5 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 4 MK 5 - MK Article