With the season now approaching the end of its first month of play the league table is beginning to take shape, even at this early stages there have been surprises, injuries and same old same old. The Manchester Phoenix, possibly, being one of the seasons surprise packages in that they are competing when many thought they wouldn't!
That being said the Phoenix injury curse has hit already this season, Stanislav Gron and Mark Thomas are both currently out with injury, heading into last weekends games Phoenix drafted in Jan Platil, who had recently been released by the Hull Pirates and, added Deeside Dragons Ross Kennedy and Paul Davies. Saturday saw the Phoenix take the drive down the M6 & M5 to the Link Centre to take on the Wildcats. It would turn out to be a pointless visit with the Wildcats running out 5-3 victors. Take a look at the weblinks at the foot of this post for a match report from the game.
Sunday night saw the first visit of the Steeldogs version Greg Wood to Deeside, usually the Phoenix would have played Sheffield in pre-season but not this year. Sheffield came to the game after an OT loss to Guildford which is no bad result, Greg and his players, joined by a large travelling contingent of fans arrived in Deeside for the seasons first War of the Roses.
First Period: The first period got off to a quick start and the Phoenix dominating the play. This version of the Steeldogs were not quite as rough and ready as Payette versions, physicality was there but by no means as much as years gone by. During the first period the Phoenix were able to stifle the Steeldogs so they were not able to mount many, if any, attacks on Fone's net. It was the home side who would score first when Robin Kovar found Michal Satek for the games first goal at 2min 09sec. The Phoenix pressure continued and the pressure was relentless so much so, by period end, the Phoenix had laid 22 shots upon Dailbor Sedlar's goal.
Second Period: Even though the Phoenix had overwhelmed the Steeldogs in the first period they still only had one goal to show for it. Phoenix fans still had the Guildford game fresh in their minds, that game, Flames had all the possession but still lost the game, could that happen to the Phoenix? Of course it could! After such a flat opener for the Steeldogs the second saw the beginning of their fight back. The Phoenix ran into some penalty trouble which offered the Steeldogs some of their own chances. Phoenix had Steve Fone to thank who was in fine form. The period wore on and Sheffield began to get their mojo going, Korhon and Bosas (whom I kept referring to as Bottas in my head for the whole game!) starting to turn the screw. The period ended though with no goals and the home side still ahead by the single goal.
Third Period: The game exploded into life during the third period, it had goals, chances, hissy fit's, minor handbags, pretty much everything we'd expect from a Steeldogs game. The Phoenix imports began to earn their pay when Robin Kovar and Michal Satek combined to double the Phoenix lead at 44min 55sec. That 2 goal lead was short lived when Ashley Calvert took the puck all the way down the ice to get the Steeldogs on the board just 29sec later scoring for the Dogs at 45min 24sec. Satek would turn provider for Robin Kovar at 45min 26sec which a true highlight reel goal to extend the Phoenix lead once more. This time though, the lead lasted even less than before, Sheffield reducing the deficit 22sec later when Korhon got the Dogs second at 46min 08sec. If Kovar's goal earlier was highlight reel, the Phoenix decisive 4 th was even better. Kovar and Satek combining once more for the latter to grab his hattrick goal. An awesome move up ice, neat inter passing with Satek crashing the net saw him score at 56min 35sec to kill off the Steeldogs challenge. The Steeldogs began to lose some composure and discipline which saw a succession head to the penalty box. Sedlar was pulled from the goal for the extra attacker with about 90sec to go, Robin Kovar got his second of the game, an empty net goal, at 59min 36sec. I will admit I did not see the incident but, at the same time, Korhon was ejected from the game for an abuse of the official call. Apparently he chucked his stick in the direction of an official? Am open to be filled in on that!
Verdict: After a loss in Swindon it was important the Phoenix get some points from the weekend. Games against Sheffield can't be taken lightly and the Phoenix opening 20min was a great show of control! In the end the Phoenix overall pressure and better discipline won the game. Sheffield will cause some upsets this season, it looks like player/coach Greg Wood has decided to go in a different direction that previously under Payetter!