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