Rosters signed, players arrived, pre-season done and dusted, not it's time for the 9 teams in the EPL to gear up and kick off their assault on the 2014/15 EPL Ice Hockey seasons. The Phoenix, as league champions, come into the season with a target on their back. A new EPL landscape has emerged, the usual suspects will be there or there abouts, your Phoenixes, Bison's, MK's, big spenders Guildford will challenge and, now joined by free spending Telford. This years EPL title will be one of the hardest to win!
Phoenix opened their EPL campaign with a trip to the hive to take on the Bracknell Bees, consensus through last season seemed to be that the Bees struggled to score. Their summer recruiting does not look to have solved the problem and the game, saturday night, seemed to prove that theory. The Phoenix coming away with a 3-1 victory.
Bees 1 - Phoenix 3 - Bees
Bees 1 - Phoenix 3 - Phoenix
For the first time in the league fans of the Phoenix and Wildcats arrived at the Altrincham Ice Dome to sunshine and warm temperatures, a bit strange when attending a hockey game! Wildcats came to the Ice Dome with some familiar faces in Lyle, Nell etc...but with some new blood too in Malasinski replacing the 'irreplaceable' Hoog. Time will tell!
First Period: Phoenix burst to live from the off taking the puck to the Wildcats and, it was the home side who lit the lamp first. Some early pressure lead to a strong shot from Hand on net, which Lyle managed to get the most of, but not all! As the puck trickled behind him James Archer was on hand, driving the net, to roof the free puck. Scoring at 1min 13sec. Phoenix continued to take the fight to the Wildcats getting plenty of shots on Lyle but, finding Lyle more than equal. No other goals were scored but, former Phoenix captain Kenton Smith talked his way into a mis-conduct penalty after an offside decision.
Second Period: While Swindon were edging back into the game the Phoenix continued to edge the play. The visitors were getting more success in moving Fone and creating chances, their forward getting their legs going and stretching the Phoenix defence. The home side would score again though, when Frankie Bakrlik took a couple of quick steps and firing off a shot to Lyle's surprise. The Phoenix second goal coming at 27min 37sec. Swindon kept at it though and, after a tangle in front of the Phoenix net. Robin Kovar was called for tripping putting the visitors on the powerplay. It was a great powerplay actually, really quick, stretching the Phoenix D pulling them out of place, and creating the opening for Malasinski to score at 38min 39sec. Swidnon ending the period in control.
Third Period: It seemed like the Swindon goal at the end of the second spurred them on in the third. Just 31sec into the final session and the Wildcats had tied the game. Oliver Betteridge scoring at 40min 31sec. Phoenix could have let that moment overrun them but, they re-grouped and dug deep. Working hard to create chances and go toe to toe with the Wildcats the hard work was finally rewarded. After some good pressure in the Wildcats zone moving the visitors around the zone, Michal Psurny pounced on a loose puck and forced home the goal of Lyle's skate. Giving the Phoenix the lead at 42min 38sec. Swindon were coming into the game more and more as the Phoenix looked to tire. With tired leg's mistakes happen and a turnover in the Wildcats zone led to the puck finding Nell on their own blue line who raced away, deked Fone and roof the puck to tie the game once again, superb goal! Their 3rd timed at 54min 50sec. Both sides tried to find a winner but none came, sending the game into Overtime.
Overtime: With more space available on the ice both teams played some intense end to end hockey. Both Lyle and Fone standing tall and repelling all that came against them. For the last 90sec the Phoenix did go on the powerplay but were not able to score a winner.
Penalties: Swindon winning on penalty shots, scorers Kostal and Malasinski, Phoenix scorer Archer.
Verdict: Which ever way you cut it it is disappointing to loose on penalty shots. Overall it was an even but very entertaining game, both teams have quality on the ice. The Phoenix had the first half of the game, Wildcats the second half. Overtime didn't really produce much and Penalty Shots are a lottery. What disappointed me about the Phoenix in the PS was, including Archer who scored, no one seemed to have full control of the puck going into the net. Swindon took theirs well, making Fone go post to post and then roofing it. So, disappointed to loose but, 3pts from 4 in the first league weekend? I'll take that! The Phoenix were much improved when compared to their WOTR loss to Sheffield the weekend before. They will be much improved again by the time the Steeldogs roll into town this sunday!
Phoenix 3 Wildcats 4 APS - Phoenix
Phoeni 3 Wildcats 4 APS - Wildcats
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