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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Phoenix Rolling Cup Special - 19th October Blackburn Hawks

Another weekend in the books, a mixed weekend for the Phoenix, both in terms of the fixtures themselves and the results! Saturday saw the Phoenix make their second trip down to Hampshire to face the Bison, before returning to the Ice Dome for the first Lancashire derby, when they took on the Blackburn Hawks at the Ice Dome. 

Saturday's trip to Bisonland was an EPL fixture and, saw the Phoenix edged out in another close encounter. This time coming home on the wrong side of a 7 goal thriller, losing to the Bison 4-3. Club match reports below and, if you fancy a fan take on things, head on over to Banners on the Wall. 

Bison 4 Phoenix 3 - Bison Article

Bison 4 Phoenix 3 - Phoenix Article

As for sunday nights game, this was a fixture I had been looking forward to ever since the details of the new Cup competition were announced. Reasons why? This dates back to my birth! My mum was physio for the original Trafford Metro's/Altrincham Aces back when the converted Ringway aircraft hangar used to sit on Devonshire Road. From birth I was taken to Metro's/Ace's games and as I grew, the derby games against the Hawks were some of the best games I saw growing up. Seeing the likes of Oleg Sinkov, Rick Ferra, Claud Dumas putting up ridiculous numbers will live long in my memory. Being around 9-10 or 11 when these games were on, I always remember the Ice Rink being packed, thinking wow, there are thousands in here, when it was probably only a few hundred. The old barn would be packed, awesome atmosphere. Those games against the Hawks will stay with me forever. So the arrival of the Hawks was something I had been looking forward to. 

Having said all that, it would still be an EPL team taking on a NIHL team but, Hawks were better than the Stars right? 

I will admit to knowing little about the Hawks current roster, which made the build up all the more exciting. A big crowd arrived at the Ice Dome, swelled by a good contingent of Hawks fans. The lights went out, teams arrived and we were ready to go! 

First Period: In front of a big crowd and an intense atmosphere the game got underway, right from the off the Phoenix made a mistake. I was not watching myself but, from others, Phoenix won the faceoff and the defence passed the puck back to Ryan in goal to give him an early touch. Trouble was, he wasn't expecting the pass, goal! After just 10sec the Hawks had the lead, with Jarred Owen credited as the scorers. This early goal for the Hawks ignited their fans and gave their players such a lift. The First ten minutes of this game were played at such a pace and intensity it was a true local derby. Despite the early set back the Phoenix tried to remain calm on the puck and absorb the early pressure coming from the Hawks. The home side got on the board thanks to Frankie Bakrlik scoring at 4min 34sec. The Phoenix were giving the Hawks some chances through their usual defensive turnovers but, the Phoenix continued to carry the greater goal threat. Phoenix extended their lead just 27 sec later when Robin Kovar got in on the scoring action at 5min 01sec. Not to be outdone the Hawks hit right back just 39sec later when Adam Brittle tied the game at 5min 40sec. On the re-start the Phoenix looked to have finally settled despite the pressure from the Hawks. The Phoenix were rotating through two lines in the early stages, even so, the players began to exert some control and look comfortable on the ice. Frankie Bakrlik put the home side ahead once more at 7min 32sec and then Jack Watkins capped some superb play to score through the 5-hole at 9min 50sec. Jack's goal capping a madcap first 10mins in this local derby, the Phoenix ahead 4-2. After the intense first 10mins the first period settled down and the intensity dropped off.  Fans in the stands were still having a great time but the game on the ice returned to an EPL team facing a NIHL team. Before the period close the Phoenix added one more goal, a hattrick goal for Bakrlik on the powerplay at 16min exactly. 

Second Period: The second session saw some of the stuffing nocked out of the Hawks as the home side ran riot in the second session. Jarred Dickinson was loving the extra ice time he was seeing and he owned the second period. Looking so comfortable on the puck Jarred extended the Phoenix lead at 22min 54sec then again at 24min 56sec. Two quick fire goals from the Phoenix sparked the Hawks into life and, their star player so far, Adam Brittle got another, the Hawks 3rd goal coming at 28min 55sec. Dickinson secured his hattrick just a minute later at 29min 52sec, and another goal followed in quick succession, Bakrlik getting his fourth at 30min 40sec. After the crazy first ten minutes the second half of the 2nd period calmed down but still saw two further goals. Kovar got his second of the game at 34min 25sec and Bobby Chamberlain got on the board with a powerplay goal at 38min 07sec. 

Third Period: With the game won the Phoenix eased off and this allowed the Hawks a little more freedom to play. The Hawks looked to have a little more stamina in the game than the Stars did and this allowed them to keep pressing the Phoenix. The Hawks hit two quick goals in the early stages of the final period, Adam Brittle sealing his hattrick at 43min 15sec and then Jarred Owen getting his second goal 12seconds later at 43min 27sec. No one believed the big comeback was on but, it did add a little edge to the remainder of the period! Despite the two quick goals the Phoenix scored once more at 44min 24sec when Chamberlain got his second of the night. The fans of both teams truly seeing a goal fest! After all that scoring the second half of the final period saw no further goals scored. 

Verdict: A big win in the first proper local derby in ages. Ok, so the result wasn't too surprising, the Phoenix were expected to win and, despite the scoreline, the Hawks offered more going forward than Billingham had. Perhaps the Stars had a better goaltender in Flavell which kept the score down. I was impressed with how the Hawks took on the game, they could have tried to limit the score but they came out flying and took the game to the Phoenix. Perhaps this also contributed to the scoreline. Stuart Ashton in the Hawks net looked to struggle, with the sheer power of shots coming his way, especially from Bakrlik, he struggled to stop them. Credit to the Hawks fans who were loud and proud throughout! Some stats/highlights from the period: 

Shots on Ashton (Hawks) 45, shots on Ryan (Phoenix) 23 
Bakrlik - 4 goals, sat out for third period 
Kovar - 2 gls 2 ass, sat out for third period 
Thompson - 5 assists 
Dickinson - 3gls 1 assists 

Dickinson got a deserved MOM for the home side in a real stand out game for the Phoenix! 

Attendance: Big crowd in the Dome 1,500 

Phoenix 12 Hawks 5 - Phoenix Article

Phoenix 12 Hawks 5 - Hawks Article

Phoenix TV:

Monday, 20 October 2014

Phoenix Rolling Cup Special - 11th October Billingham Stars

So the last weekend saw the Phoenix play NIHL opposition for the first time in the new English Challenge Cup competition. 
With the Phoenix in the northern group are: 

Billingham Stars 
Blackburn Hawks 
Peterborough Phantoms 
Sheffield Steeldogs 
Solway Sharks 
Telford Tigers 

The weekend saw the Phoenix take on the Billingham Stars in a home/away series across the weekend. Teams meeting in Altrincham saturday night, before the return fixture up at the Forum sunday afternoon. Going into the weekend the Phoenix were short on bodies, a few injuries, a restriction to only two imports, Tony asked not to ice. The u21's the Phoenix had hoped to use, in the EIHA's wisdom a Minators game was scheduled the same night so, the Phoenix had to call up a number of u18's to flesh out the bench. While the Phoenix would be expected to beat NIHL opposition, only dressing two imports, icing one at a time, and the inclusion of the youngsters would make it a different game to what Phoenix fans were used to. 

So, we all arrived at the Ice Dome, with a good contingent of noisy Stars fans, settled in to watch the nights action. 

First Period: The game began with the Phoenix retaining possession and, after just 50sec getting on the board. Bobby Chamberlain slotting the puck past Flavell in the Stars goal. Just the start the home fans wanted, even so, it was obvious this game would not be played at EPL intensity. The Stars were working hard but, lacked some of the finesse and skill the Phoenix had. Despite that the Stars did equalise, at 3min 31sec Davies got the Stars on the board to the delight of their fans. Phoenix re-grouped and asserted their control, keeping the puck in the Stars zone and being able to deal with any break-outs as they occurred. Shaun Thompson scored a quick fire brace when he managed to get into clear space around Flavell. His first coming at 11min 22sec and his second at 13min 15sec. The Stars were able to hit back when, ex Steeldog, Chris Sykes pulled the Stars back within a goal. The Stars second scored at 16min 19sec. While the game was close on the board it wasn't so much on the ice. Stars were working hard, especially Flavell in goal but, the Phoenix were rarely out of first gear for the most part. The first period ended with the Phoenix in control. 

Second Period: Perhaps it was the Stars tiring, perhaps it was the Phoenix moving up through the gears but, the home side put the game to bed in the second period. An early Watkins goal and a brace from Adam Walker made sure of the win just after the half way point. Watkins getting a reward for his hardwork when he scored the Phoenix 4th goal at 23min 23sec. Adam Walker getting his two (Phoenix 5th and 6th) at 27min and 34min 11sec respectively. The game then settled into a steady rhythm where the Phoenix controlled the pace and the Stars looked to begin tiring. The period ended with no further goals but, the Stars fans in fine voice. 

Third Period: No goals were scored in the third period but the Stars continued to bring the game to the Phoenix. The home side having eased off a little and allowing the u18's regular shifts. The Stars began to exploit some mistakes and create their own chances. As the period progressed and the result looked all the more certain. Tony Hand managed to give u18 nettie Harry Greaves get some ice time to close out the game. Perhaps receiving the loudest cheer of the night. The game ended with a win for the home side but, respect due to the Stars players and fans. 

Verdict: Not a classic by any means but, good to see a variety in opposition at the Ice Dome. The Phoenix rarely got out of first gear and, the difference in fitness was evident. But, the Stars were not disgraced, their players kept going, the fans were excellent and, in Flavell, they have a star goal-tender! 

Attendance: A decent crowd in the Ice Dome, i'll say 800. 

Phoenix 6 Stars 2 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 6 Stars 2 - Stars Article

Sunday saw the reverse fixture up in the north east, the Forum is a place I have played Ice Hockey in the past and have fond memories. I couldn't make the game so have a look at the two match reports below for a run down on the Phoenix 6-1 win. 

Stars 1 Phoenix 6 - Phoenix Article
Stars 1 Phoenix 6 - Stars Article

Friday, 10 October 2014

Phoenix Rolling - 9th October Sheffield Steeldogs

Amazing to think that, last night, a rare mid-week fixture for the Phoenix was the 5th time the Phoenix and Steeldogs have met so far this season, including pre-season!! Thursday nights game was the third in the roses rivalry and the second to be played at the Altrincham Ice Dome. The Phoenix would be hoping for a better outcome this time around though. 

A cold night greeted the fans as they flocked to the Ice Dome, the crowd swelled by a number of school groups in attendance. The Phoenix went into the game without Jacob Corson-Heron and James Archer, Sheffield without Jeff Legue and Craig Elliot. 

First Period: The game got underway with a high tempo and a weird underlying tension, at least that's how I felt it. It almost seemed like, after the battle in Sheffield the last time both sides met, it would only take a slight incident to re-ignite the tensions. But, that fear was to be un-founded. The game saw Phoenix controlling most of the puck but coming up against a Steeldogs team who were set up and working hard to re-strict the Phoenix's scoring chances. Phoenix held the puck and pressed int he Sheffield zone but, it would be a turnover, with the D left high that would cost the Phoenix. Sheffield broke out with pace with the Phoenix defence light on numbers, Korhun taking on the puck and shooting a laser guided puck past Fone in the home net. Steeldogs taking the lead at 4min 41sec, against the run of play it may have been but, Sheffield took their chance! The period resumed and the Phoenix again dominated possession and shots on Sedlar but, none of the shots were particularly testing and, the defensive frailties lead to the odd breakaway. 

Second Period: For the first ten minutes of the second period you could just re-read what happened in the first and, the next goal in the period was a carbon copy of the first. Sheffield again absorbing immense amounts of pressure, to then capitalise on a turnover with a fast break. Korhun again taking advantage scoring the Steeldogs second at 30min 46sec. Phoenix knew this second period was now crucial. With the way the Phoenix had been playing, they needed to score the next goal. The pressure finally told when, at 36min 31sec, a Bakrlik shot was spilled by Sedlar and, Kovar was on hand to tap in the rebound. This followed a priceless moment where Payette was obsessed with shadowing Burlin along the blue line taking himself out of the game leaving Sheffield down a player on the ice! The goal being the first time the Phoenix had been in a position to tidy up a Sedlar rebound. The goal lifted the Phoenix who continued to pile on the pressure, Sedlar repelling the rest of the shots coming his way. 

Third Period: Into the final session, Phoenix continued to dominate the play but Sheffield remaining resolute in their D form and play, keeping the Phoenix around the perimeter and clogging up the shooting lanes in and around Sedlar. Sheffield still threatened on the odd breakaway but the Phoenix were finally making it hard and allowing Fone a chance to make the save. Phoenix did bring the scores level at 46min 40sec when Boothroyd brought the puck in off the blue line and let a wrister go. The goal was given to Bakrlik on the night but, personally, I thought it was just a superb shot from Boother, must have been tipped by Bakrlik on the way through! As time ticked by neither side were able to create a guilt edged chance for a winner, Ref Miller seemingly had woken up and started calling penalties in the last few minutes. The Phoenix, going into OT two men down, Graham in the box to be joined by Psurny. 

Overtime: The extra session began with a 5 on 3 to Sheffield as Phoenix had two in the box. Just 11 seconds into the extra session Lloyd Gibson was called for hooking, a make up call in my opinion! Overtime was played like most of the game had been, surprisingly without much niggle and Phoenix in control for the most part but, due to the penalties, it was a little confusing as to how many players each team should have on the ice! As said, the OT period was played like regular time had been, so it was Sheffield who scored the winner. Phoenix in control but turning the puck over centre ice, Gibson on hand to pick up the puck, move in on Fone and score the winner at 62min 20sec. 

Verdict: The stats will show how dominant the Phoenix were in this game is most ways but the important one. Phoenix outshot the Steeldogs easily 2 to 1 but, the telling fact was, the shorts were far from quality. 60+ shots and you only score two goals is appalling and far from title winning. That, coupled with some defensive frailties will see the Phoenix a fair way off title winning pace, to many times the Phoenix were caught high up the ice giving Sheffield the breakaway chance. Thank god Legue was not playing as the scoreline could have been worse! That being said, credit must go to Sheffield! Much like when the Bison come to town, they set up to absorb the pressure and hit the Phoenix on the break, Tony must see he needs a plan B! Its frustrating to see the Phoenix take game so easily but, give up too many goals to breakaways. 

Now, Sheffield, I would like opinion from fans across the EPL on this. If Sheffield win in your barn, do they celebrate like they have just won the stanley cup? I know winning in OT can be a real hyped up moment but, the way Sheffield celebrated their win last night was disgraceful. Proper stick's/gloves thrown into the air skating at speed to celebrate the win. Call me bitter if you like but, I have seen many other teams win in the Ice Dome in OT (Phoenix included) and none have celebrated like Sheffield do! Sheffield, you have spent alot of money on this seasons team, you need to grow up and realise you are not the little budget team you think you are anymore! 

Officiating, a subject I really really try hard not to get worked up about. Last night was, one of the worst displays of officiating I have seen in the Ice Dome. The  whole team too Referee and Linesman. Genuinely, rose tinted aside, I have never watched a game and thought, I have no idea what that call was! And that applied to Sheffield's penalty calls too! The result of this game was not wholly determined by the two teams on the ice but, the three teams on the ice! 

Anyhoo, that mini rant of my chest, I hold no grudges on Sheffield getting the two points. Im pleased Phoenix got one but, they should have taken both! 

Attendance: Around 900 in the Ice Dome 

Phoenix 2 Sheffield 3 after OT - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 2 Sheffield 3 after OT - Steeldogs Article

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Phoenix Rolling - 28th September Peterborough Phantoms

With the disappointment of a null point weekend the Phoenix went into last weekends games with the need to put some points on the board. While no league title campaign is over in the first month of play, a poor start can lead you to play catch up for the entire season. Weekends are always tough in the EPL, this season more so. Saturday saw the Phoenix make the short-ish trip to Coventry to take on the MK Lightning. The SkyDome and its big ice has caused Phoenix problems in the past and the current short bench would not make things any easier. Following the MK game Phoenix would return home to take on a vastly improved Phantoms side in Altrincham on the sunday. 

The MK game was a tough one but Phoenix proved their title credentials with a tough 4-1 victory. Controlling the game, at least on the scoreboard, the Phoenix were 2-0 up by the end of the second period. The lead enable to the Phoenix to simply match anything MK could do. By the final buzzer the Phoenix had ground out a superb victory. Especially as they were without Frankie Bakrlik and Jacob Corson-Heron, who had suffered a broken collar bone the night before in training! 

MK 1 - Phoenix 4 - Phoenix Article
MK 1 - Phoenix 4 - MK Article
MK 1 - Phoenix 4 - MK TV

Despite the short bench the Phoenix returned to the Ice Dome to take on the Phantoms in what would be another tough game. Phantoms were on a high after getting a win against Guildford the night before and would be no pushover's. 

Another sunny sunday greeted hockey fans as battle was about to commence to see who skated away with a 4 point weekend! 

First Period: The game began at a good pace with both the Phoenix and Phantoms feeling each other out in the early stages. It was clear to see the Phantoms are a different prospect this season, pleasingly for the home support, the Phoenix defence also looked much improved with Fone rarely facing testing shots. Encouragingly for the Phoenix they were getting Auzins to give up some juicy rebounds! Phoenix scored first when Tony Hand found James Archer on the right faceoff circle who fired a shot straight past Auzins to give the home side the lead, his goal coming at 3min 57sec. Phoenix continued the pressure and Psurny was unlucky to double the lead a few minutes later, when he broke through the Phantoms defence only to lose control of the puck at the vital moment. The 2nd goal for Phoenix did come in the end, and it was former Phantoms James Archer again who scored it. This time a reward for a great line goal, Hand found Psurny who then found James free in the slot to score past Auzins, that goal coming at 16min 57sec. As the buzzer went the first period ended with the home side ahead and, remarkably, not a penalty called! 

Second Period: The Phantoms had to open up to come into the game and began to create some good chances of their own. The Phantoms did pull a goal back just before the 25min mark when the deadly Lithuanian Supercalifragalistic Darius Pliskauskas was set free by Koulikov to score an excellent goal past Fone. The Phantoms opening their account at 24min 17sec. For much of the second period the game was played without incident, in fact, it wasn't until about the 36th minute before referee Tom Perring found the need of his whistle for a penalty. Worryingly right at the end of the period James Archer limped off with a bad looking injury. He had been in top form all night and, after crashing the net and going over with Auzins he stayed down. Being helped off the ice and putting no weight on his right leg at all. He would not return. 

Third Period: With the game very much still in the balance both sides kept up their play in the third period. The Phantoms imports proving to be a cut above those in the past overall, with Bebris showing what the Steeldogs have lost in some great speed. Phoenix had momentum in the third, beginning the final session and, with McGiffin going for a tripping penalty 3 minutes in the Phoenix had the advantage again. After cycling the puck to create some space the puck found James Neil on the blue line who step forward and unleash a cracking shot to the top shelf. His goal being the Phoenix 3rd coming at 44min 44sec. Phantoms would not be frozen out though and continued to press. With Burlin leaving the game with an injury, Kovar went onto D duties and was called for a hooking penalty in the last minute. With Auzins off the ice the Phantoms set up for the faceoff 6 on 4. A superb faceoff win Apelis, who fed the puck back to J Ferrara on the point, who unleashed a storming shot to the pack of Fone's net. The Phantoms second goal coming just 4 seconds into the powerplay! That's what you call efficiency! Phantoms tried to throw everything at the Phoenix in those last seconds but, the home side repelled everything and, when the final buzzer went, were toasting a fine 4 point weekend. 

Verdict: After the previous weekends null point weekend, it was important for the Phoenix to get back on track. The 4 points this weekend is just what was needed, although the injury list is not! Two bodies short going into the weekend, then, losing Archer and Burlin too, the Phoenix are looking severely short benched at the moment. Hopefully a week of rest & recovery will see some bodies back on the ice. The Phoenix continue to put alot of shots on opposition goaltenders, last sunday night saw Fone face 35 shots and Auzins 53!!! Just need to work on the accuracy now! 

Attendance: A good crowd in, i'll say 1,100 

Phoenix 3 - Phantoms 2 - Phoenix Article
Phoenix 3 - Phantoms 2 - Phantoms Article

Phoenix TV: