The weekend had arrived, the most important weekend of the season for Phoenix and Bison fans, the long road finally lead to sunday night's epic clash between the top two for the EPL crown. Before the title decider both teams had saturday games to play, Bison at home to Steeldogs and the Phoenix away to the Wildcats. The Angry Budgie made a rare away day to Swindon saturday. The trip gave a chance to catch up with some old friends and take in the Wildcats/Phoenix game.
So we have a brief run down of the Phoenix away in Swidon.......Phoenix were rubbish!
Really as simple as that, the team played badly and got what they deserved...no points. It was, comfortably, the worst performance of the season by the Phoenix, as described by fellow Phoenix fans and, even a Wildcats fan. Passing was poor, we just couldn't set up regularly in the Wildcats zone, which led to little quality chances on Lyle. All that being said, credit to the Wildcats! They are in good form at the moment and worked hard on upsetting the Phoenix. The forecheck was high and they really hustled centre ice which disrupted the Phoenix transition into their zone.
Wildcats 2 Phoenix 0 - Phoenix Article
Wildcats 2 Phoenix 0 - Wildcats Article
Absolutely no issues from me with the result. With the Bison beating Sheffield at home the sunday meeting between the two sides became the nailed on title decider it was always likely to be! Pleasing for me was to see some Phoenix players reactions to saturday nights game, this meant I went to Sunday's game weirdly confident!
After a long drive north from Swindon it was an early arrival at the Ice Dome for The Angry Budgie. A big big crowd came to the Ice Dome to watch this vital game, including a big contingent from Basingstoke. The lights went out, the players came onto the ice and the puck dropped on the biggest game in the EPL season to date.
First Period: With Wardell in charge, in Altrincham for the first time in ages, the title decider got underway. Bison have a strong roster this year and, certainly bigger roster than the Phoenix. The first period was tight and tense, as you would expect. The home crowd were doing their best and the atmosphere was fantastic in the first period. After the dire performance the previous night the Phoenix came out the blocks looking their old self against the Bison. Taking the puck and creating most of the chances the Phoenix settled some nerves by lighting the lamp first. James Archer scoring the first goal of the game at 12min 09sec. The goal brought the game to life and the Bison worked hard to get back on level terms. The first goal for the Bison did come in the first when Melichrino tied the game at 17min 16sec. The goal silencing the home crowd for a few moments. The period continued at a high pace until the buzzer sounded ending a thoroughly entertaining 20mins of hockey.
Second Period: The second period continued as the first had left off, both sets of fans making lots of noise and the game remaining tight on the ice. Mettam as being worked a little more than Fone but the Bison were still pressing and keeping the Phoenix honest in defence. Chances continued to be made until midway through the second period when the Phoenix extended their lead. After gaining the Bison zone the Phoenix moved the puck around the perimeter until Schnabel had it on the point. With a good screen on Mettam Schnabel let rip with a pin point wrister to score the Phoenix second at 29min 51sec. Phoenix fans upped the noise level and were rewarded with another goal with 5 minutes to go in the period. A superb bit of passing opened up the Bison D so Hand had some space on the goal line who then found Psurny un-marked on the back post for an easy tap in. The third goal coming at 35min 24sec. The delight in the stands was instantly shattered when, Bison showed their own quality by hitting right back. Doug Sheppard capping a quick and incisive move that saw the Bison score straight from the faceoff and reduce the arrears to one goal, goal timed at 35min 53sec. So 3-2 Phoenix with the Bison hitting right back was a blow, the last few minutes were still even and filled with good hockey. In fact the home fans were delighted once more when Tony Hand took a shot on the powerplay and restored the Phoenix two goal lead. His PP goal coking at 37min 53sec. The final few minutes would be key. If the Phoenix could end the period 2 goals ahead the title would be edging ever closer.
Third Period: 20 minutes, 20 minutes separated the Phoenix from their 2nd EPL title. Personally I could not look at the clock, I didn't want to! The Phoenix were calming the nerves though, possible combined with the Bison legs tiring, they had a tough game versus Sheffield the night before, so the Phoenix began to control the period. Not wanting to over extend too much the Phoenix played it simple....for the most part! Haha! The two sides continued to battle with Fone and Mettam pulling off some great stops but the clock continued to tick down. Going into the final few minutes the Bison pressed and pulled Mettam. Phoenix tried for the empty net but missing by inches at times. The clock got into the last 10 seconds and the Phoenix won the faceoff, cycled the puck round the back boards to Kovar who lofted it goalwards and, in true fairy tail style, the empty net goal was scored at 59min 59sec. Cue pandemonium on the ice and in the stands, the Phoenix had done it, EPL champions baby!
Verdict: Putting aside the obvious, this was a really good performance form the Phoenix. It often takes the best opposition for the Phoenix to really play but they did. This was a solid controlling display from the home side who showed few, if any, nerves throughout the game.The whole team stepped up in the face of a quality Bison side and deserved the win. Also a special note again to the Choir Boys, fantastic effort to create a great great atmosphere!
Attendance: Really good crowd, well, for a title decider you'd expect so! 1,800 in the Ice Dome i'll guess!
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Phoenix 5 Bison 2 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 5 Bison 2 - Bison Article
Phoenix 5 Bison 2 - MEN
Phoenix 5 Bison 2 - Basingstoke Gazette