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