With the regular season done and dusted, an Championship title won, it was time for the Phoenix to turn their attention to defending their Coventry crown. As with last season the Phoenix faced a quarter final match-up with the Bracknell Bees. While on paper the tie would look to be one sided, we are talking about 1st vs 8th here, playoff hockey is a whole other animal. In essence, league placings aside, this was 120mins of hockey to make the final dance. The Phoenix do have a good record against the Bees but, the Berkshire side are capable of a result. The first leg down at The Hive was a tough and close affair with the Bees edging the odd goal in 5 to bring a slender advantage back north.
Bees 3 Phoenix 2 - Phoenix Article
Bees 3 Phoenix 2 - Bees Article
Bees 3 Phoenix 2 - Messenger News
The Phoenix faithful, and a fair contingent from Bracknell made their final trip to Altrincham for the second leg. For the Bees, coach trouble meant that a good proportion of those visiting Bees fans never made it to the Ice Dome sadly. As a giant champions banner was unveiled the puck dropped on the final 60mins of hockey in Altrincham for the 13/14 season.
First Period: The game got underway and the Bees were immediately on the front foot. The first five minutes passed with the visitors dominating possession and chances. It was impressive stuff but, Fone was standing tall and giving the Phoenix a chance to settle into the game and wrest control back. Gradually they did so and began to apply more pressure to Mettam in the Bees net. The Phoenix, while controlling most of the period, did look a little tight and nervy. Not too surprising given they had a goal to make up. Plus the Bees hard working defence keeping them at bay. The Bees tactic of defence with the odd breakaway was working but also risky. How long could their defence last under the pressure?
Second Period: The answer was over half of the game. The second picked up where the first left off with the Phoenix increasing the pressure on Mettam and the short benched Bracknell D. In a bit of good fortune for the home side a bounce of the puck evaded a Bracknell defencemen to fall onto the stick of Psurny, Breaking free he went in alone on Mettam and pulled off a lovely deke to spread Mettam and slide the puck through the smallest of gaps, goal timed at 34min 04sec. Game level and the flood gates opened! Just over two minutes later the home fans were celebrating again when, on the powerplay, an absolutely awesome shot from Bakrlik lit the lamp, his stormer coming at 36min 24sec. I still don't think Mettam has seen it! The Phoenix second period domination continued when, around a minute later Joe Graham found himself free in front of Mettam and cooly lifted the puck past the Bees stopper. The Phoenix third coming at 37min 26sec. The period ended with the Phoenix 3-0 up on the night and 5-3 up overall.
Third Period: Having seen their previous tactic blown to pieces in the second period, the Bees had to come out and press hard. This opened up the game and we really got some great hockey to watch. Phoenix extended their lead when Tony Hand scored the 4th on the night at 46min 24sec. The period reached its halfway point and the Bees began to ratchet up their pressure, it was that or risk seeing their season end sooner rather than later. The Bees made their breakthrough when, serial aggitator Galazzi, scored the Bees first goal. The Bees breakthrough coming at 51min 41sec. This sparked a goal filled last 8-9 minutes of the game where the two teams traded goals. With the Phoenix on the powerplay James Archer scored at 54min 59sec. Just about 80sec later the Bees grabbed another through Strycek, his goal at 56min 17sec. Then about 70sec after that Bakrlik got his second of the game, scoring at 57min 33sec. The last goal and the Bees short bench looked to have sealed the game, the clock wound down and the final buzzer went, breaking Bees hearts and sending the Phoenix to Coventry. Final score on the night 6-2 and 8-6 overall.
Verdict: A tense game early on but a superb second period blew it open and in the Phoenix favour. The early stages were perfect for the Bees, soaking up the pressure. But, when the breakthrough came the Bees struggled to adapt and get back into it. It was always going to be a tough tie but, I was always confident over 120mins of hockey, the Phoenix would have the quality to make it to the final 4.
Attendance: A little disappointing actually, still a good crowd but down on last weeks crowd. I'll guess at around 1,000 in the Ice Dome.
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Phoenix 6 Bees 3 - Bees Article
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