This past weekend would see the Phoenix begin to make up some of their games in hand on the Basingstoke Bison. It would be a tough weekend too with 3 games in 3 nights, starting with two tough road games against the Steeldogs and Bees. Before welcoming the Swindon Wildcats to the Ice Dome.
Sheffield 2 Phoenix 3 - Steeldogs
Sheffield 2 Phoenix 3 - Phoenix
Bracknell 1 Phoenix 5 - Bees
Bracknell 1 Phoenix 5 - Phoenix
The win in Sheffield was important as that was a game in hand, it is vital for the Phoenix to convert those games in hand to wins. The win in Bracknell rammed home the previous win. The game against Swindon would now be so important to give the Phoenix a 6pt weekend and really give them an advantage in the title hunt. It would still be a hard game as Swindon are no pushovers and, this game would be the third in three nights. No matter who you are, that is a big toll on the body. So the faithful gathered together to welcome Hoog, Nell and the rest of the Wildcats to Altrincham for the last game in a tough weekend!
First Period: The Phoenix had to make a good start in the game, being the 3rd in 3 nights if the Phoenix were lax and allowed Swindon to control the game it would be a long and frustrating night for the home side. The Phoenix came out the blocks hard, hoping to take the early initiative. The Phoenix took the first penalty of the period but killed it off without much fuss. The first Swidon powerplay gave the Phoenix a chance to score, and they did. Robin Kovar scoring a powerplay goal at 9min 16sec. This kicked off a great period of dominance by the home side as they extended the lead soon after. James Archer, profiting on being on the top line, scored the 2nd goal at 12min 14sec. The 3rd goal came just before the close of the period when Tony Hand scored at 17min 58sec. A great shot from a great player capped off a perfect period for the Phoenix, the home side up 3-0.
Second Period: The Wildcats upped their game in the second period and began to frustrate the home side. They were working hard on protecting Lyle and he was also pulling off some great saves. The Wildcats main offensive threat came from Hoog and Nell who, apart from being some of the best forwards in the EPL, are damn fast! With the Phoenix beginning to tire the Wildcats began to press for a goal. Halfway through the period they got their chance, after a questionable call on James Archer the Wildcats went on the PP. I say questionable as Archer was called for goalie interference, ignoring the fact it was a Wildcats player who pushed him onto Lyle and pinned him down, hey ho! EPL officiating everyone! On the resulting powerplay the Wildcats did get their goal, when Hoog lit the lamp at 28min 24sec. With the score at 3-1 the game became much more tense, the Wildcats were on the up and the Phoenix were just beginning to tire. The home side made it to the end of the session still ahead, 3-1.
Third Period: The final period would be a big test for the Phoenix, the Wildcats have enough skill in their top line to haul a result back from the edge. The Phoenix, and their tiring legs had to make it through one more period for an epic weekend. The first 10 minutes of the period passed with both teams working hard on scraps. As the game moved into the final furlong the Phoenix struck first, Frankie Bakrlik scoring at 52min 44sec. This eased some fears in the home support. You can never count Swidon out though, at 55min 29sec Aaron Nell scored the Wildcats 2nd of the night, he really is too good for the EPL. Things became really interesting when Hoog scored again, on the powerplay at 59min 04sec. The last minute was so tense, the Wildcats rushing pressure and a fantastic faceoff win by Kovar with 7 to go killed the game.
Verdict: A good win and one that was needed to keep the Phoenix in the title race. Being the 3rd in 3 nights this was such a tough test for the home side. A test they managed to pass. A brilliant first period, even second and a Wildcats third ensured a tight game. Thankfully the first period won it for the Phoenix. A real gutsy effort from the Phoenix!
Attendance: I'll say 1,200 in the Ice Dome
Phoenix 5 Swindon 4 - Phoenix
Phoenix 5 Swindon 4 - Wildcats