The road to the 15/16 season has been an interesting ones for Phoenix fans and for fans of hockey in Manchester it has to be said. Much has been said on various forum's/blog's and twitter, I said my piece in my previous post so, from now on its hockey only on the blog! Famous last words I know!
This post is going to round up the last few players who were added to the roster and the two 'home' preseason games against the Swindon Wildcats and the Telford Tigers. So, onto the remaining players to join the Phoenix roster:
Back up Netminder - Phil Spanswick. Last season Phoenix had one of the strongest netminding tandems in the league with Fone and Declan Ryan. During the summer Ryan announced via twitter that he was taking time away from hockey to pursue a phd. Fair enough, at EPL level hockey is not a full time profession for Brit's so you have to get set for your future away from the sport. So, with the back up netminder spot free the Phoenix announced Phil Spanswick who would fill the role for this coming season. I will concede I do not know much about Phil and his Elite Hockey Prospects page is quite sparse. Anyone out there know much/anything about him?
Forward - Trent Hope. Hope is a name familiar to hockey fans across the UK. Shannon Hope was a defenceman for the Cardiff Devils playing nearly 400 games for the Cardiff side. No surprise then that his son, Trent, has played his career to date in south Wales. So far he has performed nicely in the ENL and ENL 2 and this season will be his first in the top level of English Ice Hockey the EPL. Another player I know little about but am looking forward to seeing out on the ice!
Forward - Stanislav Gron. Or MecaGron is how i'll be referring to him this coming season is a big Slovak forward drafted by the New Jersey Devils in 1997. Playing the majority of his career in his home country he also had signifcant stints in Italy, the WHL and the AHL putting up nearly a point every other game. His past couple of seasons in Italy have seen him scoring at over 1.5 points per game.He looks to have the size, he has the experience hopefully MecaGron will fill the points gap left by Tony Hand's retirement.
Forward - Nico Aaltonen. Phoenix dont usually sign finnish players so Nico joins quite a small list! Nico will be another top lforward who the club will hope replaces some of the points lost through player departures. Like MecaGron, Nico has spent most of his career in his homeland and, played one game shy of 200 in the Liiga in Finland.
Forward - Michal Satek. Another new arrival at the Phoenix, he joins Aaltonen and MecaGron making their debut seasons with the Phoenix in England in the EPL. Having spent just one season outside Slovakia Satek comes to England for a new challenge. His career in Slovakia has seen him score roughly a point every 2 or 3 games and, coming off the back of a good year in Romania. Satek looks exciting on paper, hopefully that will translate onto the ice.
Along with the main roster the Phoenix have also signed two Deeside youngsters on two way contracts for the coming season, makes sense given the year long residency the Phoenix have in north Wales.
Youngsters playing on a two way with the Deeside Dragons, Ross Kennedy on Defence and Ryan Jones on forward. Give the Phoenix tendancy to ice with a shorter roster and, our luck (or lack thereof) with injuries, I think the two youngsters will see a fair amount of ice time!
So thats the roster, how about some games? Continuing the strange summer we've had as Phoenix fans, it was August and we were on the M56 heading for North Wales! Hockey can be a strange and unusual sport sometimes but, its why we all love it! It was good fun driving across to Deeside, this coming season will feel like an adventure each weekend! For those of you who will come to Deeside as an away fan I would recommend arriving a little earlier or, build in a trip to Chester Zoo or Cheshire Oaks at the same time. Both are only about 20 minutes away from the Ice Rink!
Cats enter the Dragons Lair:
Swindon Wildcats were the first visitors to the Phoenix new home and the first with Stevie Lyle as player coach. The Cat's have retianed the majority of their 14/15 roster, the significant changes coming in their imports. Hoog and Kana were not retained, placed by Miroslav Zalasak and Sami Ryhanen. The game really was fun to watch, Swindon and Phoenix have similarities in the way they play. Swindon, for me, looked very solid if a little un-inspiring at times. Throughout the game the main players just didnt seem to catch fire. Im really looking at Nell and Kostal. They seemed to huff and puff but not really get anywhere. The Phoenix, while looking a bit more kamikaze in defence had pace to burn and would often get in behind the Wildcats defence. In the end the Phoenix were able to capitalise on that pace while doing just enough in defence to keep the Wildcats at bay. Plus, Steve Fone was in outstanding form!
Reality check from the Champions:
After the weekends optimism playing the Wildcats and, a 4-3 win in Telford the night before sunday was set up to be a cracker. The Tigers come into the 15/16 which a largely unchanged roster. Well, they are champions so, why change something that isn't broken? The only new blood coming from two new players, Joe Graham and Phil Hill. When the game got going the Phoenix looked good in the early stages and took the lead. But, the quality on the Tigers roster began to come through. The Tigers took quick hold of the game and ran away with it. Really no issues with the scoreline for me, the Phoenix looked tired and, coupled with the Tigers depth, just couldn't match up. Best team in the league last year and, on that showing, they will be the ones to beat again!