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:
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