The Angry Budgie Live

Monday, 23 November 2015

Phoenix Rolling - Peterborough Phantoms 22/11/15

The weather turned this past weekend, the cold winds were blowing in, the first weekend of proper hockey weather. That meaning those mad few of us would, in the freezing wind, go and sit inside an ice rink for a few hours of a sunday evening. Sunday in the West Manchester Municipal Pool saw the Phoenix host the Peterborough Phantoms a game which, personally speaking, I would be delighted if the Phoenix managed to get a point from! Just being realistic! The Phantoms have a better/deeper squad and, possibly, have been the best team I have seen against the Phoenix so far this season! 

Saturday the Phoenix made the trip, once again, down to Swidon for what seems like the umpteenth time in a couple of weeks! Traditionally not a place the Phoenix have done well in so again, a point would be nice. Early signs were not good when the Wildcats raced to a 4-1 lead by the end of the second. But, credit the Phoenix they worked hard and, with less than a minute to go, made it 4-3. While still a loss, it was a great (almost)comeback and one which made the scoreline look a little more respectable. 

First Period: In some long awaited good news the Phoenix started the game with Gareth O'Flaherty back on the ice, the extra skater really making a difference as the Phoenix came out the traps quickly. Despite the Phantoms superior strength and depth it was the Phoenix who created the first chance, when Kovar was denied by Auzins. The Phantoms were then handed 1min 50sec of 5 on 3 when Mark Thomas, then Luke Boothroyd were sent to the penalty box in quick succession. 5-on-3 against the Phantoms, it would only be a matter of time before the breakthrough was made? In the end the Phoenix defended the short handed period perfectly, denying the Phantoms. Michal Satek standing out on the point of the triangle not giving the 'quarterback's on the blue line a chance to shoot. That gave the Phoenix some excellent momentum, they had their own PP a few minutes later, with Will Weldon in the box on a hooking call the Phoenix set up in the Phantoms zone. Cycling the puck round, Nico Aaltonen found Ben Wood free in front of goal who cooly slotted past Auzins for the games first goal, time at 9min 53sec. Into the second half of the period and the Phantoms began to get going. A quickfire double silenced the home crowd, Milan Baranyk and Ales Padalek giving the visitors the lead with goals at 12min 05sec and 12min 26sec. The first a poor rebound given up by Fone, all the Phoenix D being tied up giving Baranyk oodles of time to round Fone, wait for him to commit, then slot into the empty net. The second goal a long shot from the point which saw the faintest of deflections to deceive Fone. The news from the first period did not get any better when Stan Gron had an awkward collision with Martins Susters which saw Gron remain on the bench with an ice pack to the jaw....he did not return to the game. 

Second Period: There was little goalmouth action in the second period until the very end. Both teams traded chances and, except for the first 5 mins, the Phoenix more than held their own and even dominated for large stretches. It was in the dying moments the Phantoms were able to break up a Phoenix attack, break up ice and score a well worked goal. However, it was immediately washed out for goalie interference, to be fair to Matthews, he was well placed and washed the goal out straight away. Decisive at least! 

Third Period: 20min to go, the Phoenix more than equal, would the home side get a reward for this rather than come up short? They battled hard in the third and again, the difference in roster was not apparent. With Gron off the ice the Phoenix rotated the top line to include all 3 import forwards at a time with Ben Wood, giving some added size and speed. The hard work was rewarded as the period moved into its second half. After Kovar had circled the zone and put in a shot, Nico Aaltonen was on hand to score the rebound with a deft back hand over Auzins. With some of the rebounds Auzins had been giving up it was about time the Phoenix got in there to mop up! Neither side was able to score the winner so, to OT we go! 

Overtime: Overtime began with the Phantoms controlling possession but being unable to camp out in the Phoenix zone. Fone made some excellent saves as the Phoenix pressured to create a turnover. When it came, Michal Satek was released up the boards, with pace to burn he rounded the Phantoms D and, with Auzins committing to the poke check early, was able to flick the puck over and into the net, giving the Phoenix their first OT win in ages! 

Verdict: It feels like I have had to write about good Phoenix performances not getting the deserved result. How refreshing to report that, the good performance was rewarded with a W! The Phoenix more than competed and deserved the win against a very good Phantoms side. The Phantoms are very quick, very slick with the passing and well drilled. Auzins looked a little shakier in the game compared to previous games and the Phoenix took advantage. I thought Auzins 'telegraphed' his poke check in OT, which is not meant to take away from Satek's finish, it truly did deserve to be the game winner!

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Phoenix Rolling - Swindon Wildcats 15/11/15

Hoping to build on the 4 point weekend previously the Phoenix had a trip across the Pennines to take on the Sheffield Steeldogs, before heading back home to host the Swindon Wildcats. The Phoenix had to take on the Steeldogs without Gareth O'Flaherty who was suffering with a little concussion he took in the game against the Telford Tigers the previous week. During the game Robin Kovar also picked up an injury so the Phoenix would be two players down for the visit of the Cats. After a quick call, and with kind permission from the Blackburn Hawks, the Phoenix would welcome an old friend back to the roster for one night only. Richie Bentham would, once again, don the Phoenix colours. 

A large and boisterous crowd filled the West Manchester Municipal Pool for the second encounter, in the league, between the Phoenix and the Cats. Tom Perring wore the arm bands and, after a playing of La Marseillaise the puck was dropped. 

First Period: It had all the potential for another epic game between the two sides but, it would be tough for the Phoenix. Swindon had the advantage of a much deeper roster, the Phoenix bench shortened by injury. Things did not get off on the right foot for Phoenix fans, within the first 3 minutes the visitors had taken the lead. After excellent passing from McEwan and Taylor, Sam Bullas lit the lamp for the first goal of the game, timed at 2min 23sec. Phoenix re-grouped and started to get back into the game. Breakaway chances fell to Gron and Archer who were both denied by Stevie Lyle. The Phoenix would finally get some reward when Stan Gron broke up a Swindon play in the Phoenix zone and found Satek mid ice. Michal raced up ice and, after pulling an awesome move on Lyle roofed the puck to bring the home side level. His goal timed at 9min 15sec. The period progressed and Richie Bentham began to show what the Phoenix fans were missing. His play bringing some physicality and chippieness to the Phoenix which has been sorely missed. Carlo Finucci took a two minute slashing penalty which put the Phoenx in the powerplay. The Phoenix put immense pressure on the Wildcat net but could not find a way past Lyle, after a break down in play Kostal was able to pick out Hoog who raced clear and slotted home a superb short handed effort, giving the Cats the lead at 16min 56sec. The period would end with the Cats holding the advantage, shots were 12 a piece. 

Second Period: In what was turning out to be a fantastic game of hockey to watch, the second period progressed much like the first! Both teams were creating chances but, finding the opposition net minder equal to the shots. The Phoenix had a brief few chances when Jan Kostal then Adam Harding went to the box for hooking and cross checking penalties respectively. The Phoenix were unable to break through and the period ended with the score still, 2-1 Swindon. 

Third Period: One more period and one goal is doable for the Phoenix, Swindon however were not reading that script! At 47min 37sec Aaron Nell scored his first of the game to give the visitors a 3-1 lead, thus silencing the lively home support. That silence did not last long, when a superb solo effort from Stan Gron reduced the deficit when he scored at 47min 52sec. Phoenix ramped up the pressure, but Stevie Lyle, showing all his experience kept them at bay, even with some unorthodox saves! With time ticking down the Phoenix pulled Fone for the extra attacker and, rarely, it worked. Ritchie Bentham as if it was meant to be, scored with 20sec to go to force overtime. Needless to say....they are still searching for the roof of the building! 

Overtime: Into 3-on3 action we go. Both sides saw chances early on, the highlight for the Phoenix was Mark Thomas coming close forcing Lyle into an unbelievable stop....worth watching Phoenix TV for that one! With time running down it seemed penalty shots were inevitable but, the hockey gods would deal the Phoenix a cruel hand. With just 2.5sec left on the clock, Nell found himself in some space, with the puck and he made no mistake. Taking the shot and taking the win, plus the extra point, down the M5 to Swindon! 

Verdict: A real shame for the Phoenix to lose the game with 2.5 to go but, it was a fantastic game overall. Swindon and Manchester are two evenly matched teams and each game between the two, so far, have been fantastic, at least the games I have seen in Deeside! Given the Phoenix recent run of results and form, the past two weekends have seen a real upturn in performance. Thats what makes me not too bothered to have lost sunday night, the performance was there! Could it have been a different story with O'Flaherty and Kovar on the ice? Maybe? I sure hope Neil Morris and Tony Hand can find some budget to have Bentham back, he played very well, got a goal plus a 10min penalty. Phoenix could do with some of that energy!

Monday, 9 November 2015

Phoenix Rolling - Telford Tigers 08/11/15

Its been a tough October, a record of 2 wins and 7 losses meant the Phoenix had slipped down the table and the fans were...a little half empty! The run of results did coincide with the loss of Stan Gron and Mark Thomas to injury for the most part, the short bench made even shorter. Add in a little bad luck and games were being lost on the odd bad bounce, a call not going their way and a bit of frustration. November arrived, Gron and Thomas came back from injury and results began to improve. First an OT loss to MK brought a point then, saturday saw the Phoenix travel along the M62 to take a superb 6-1 win from the Hull Pirates. 

This all set up the visit of the Telford Tigers to the West Manchester Municipal swimming pool.....sorry Deeside. The Red Hockey brothers would also help to christen, at least in the EPL, the new plexi glass having been installed at the rink. Sadly trading away the EPL's highest assist machine.....the netting! Given the results during October, most Phoenix fans were not predicting a good result for the short benched Phoenix against the 4 lines of Telford but, you can only have 6 players on the ice at a time, you never know! 

Hard work, determination and concentration would be needed for the full 60 minutes! 

First Period: The puck dropped and, with a roar of noise from the stands the game got underway. The game was played at a high pace both Steve Fone and Sam Gospel had to be in top form from the first second. Both teams putting the pressure on, Gospel coming up big to deny Trent Hope and Jacob Corson-Heron it quick succession. The visiting Tigers began to exert some control on the game and their slick passing and well drilled moves came to the fore. It was impressive to watch just how quick they could break up Phoenix play in their own zone, then transition up ice into the Phoenix zone in about 3 passes! Stretching the Phoenix legs, already looking daunting for the rest of the game. We had to wait until the final two minutes for the games first goal, with Stan Gron in the penalty box on a hooking call the Tigers PP unit took to the ice. After seeing the Phoenix draw a black on two earlier PP opportunities it was frustrating to see the Tigers score about 30sec into their first advantage. Weaver scoring a peach of a shot from the blue line at 18min 14sec, assists going to Silverthorn and Szabo. The buzzer went with the visitors ahead and, perhaps, the Phoenix a little hard done by in terms of the scoreboard! 

Second Period: The second session usually signals a little wobble from the Phoenix but, we couldn't have been more wrong! The home side came out the traps flying, pressing Telford high and disrupting their play. It was a marked difference to the first period, the Phoenix were hounding and harrying and the Tigers play began to breakup and become a little sloppy. Approaching the halfway point and the game really burst to life. With the Phoenix pressing Gospel's goal, Luke Boothroyd put a clever shot in on Gospel, who gave up a rebound and much hell broke lose in the crease. After a few attempts Nico Aaltonen was free on the back post as the puck bounced through to him, Nico scoring the game levelling goal at 27min 23sec and the crowd erupted. A well deserved goal lifted the rink and, that joy was doubled less than a minute later when the Phoenix scored again. Almost a carbon copy when, Luke again with a shot from the point, Gospel again giving up the rebound, this time it was Michal Satek who was on hand and un marked to give the Phoenix the lead. The Phoenix second goal timed at 28min 17sec. Both sides were really up for the game as Gron had another good opportunity for the home side while, Silverthorn was denied by the pipework for the visitors. 

Third Period: The final session proved to be a barn stormer, Phoenix deservedly ahead while the Tigers still had one of (if not the) most talented roster in the league. The hockey gods obviously decided to make that W hard to get for the Phoenix. The home side totting up a total of 16 penalty minutes to Telford's 0. That meant putting the lethal Tigers on the PP. Despite many people's fears (mine included) the Phoenix stood tall, worked hard and denied the Tigers on their PP opportunities. Especially as the Phoenix picked up one 2 minute penalty at 55min and then another at 58min meaning they would be short handed to the buzzer to claim the win. Tigers were 5 on 4, then for the last 100sec they were 6 on 4 with the empty net. Phoenix held their shape well in their own zone, Fone stood tall, the fans made the noise and, but for two inches the wrong way, Kovar could have had the empty netter to top off the win. It hit the post but it didn't matter, Phoenix held on for a superb win on home ice. 

Verdict: Against MK a few weeks ago I though the Phoenix deserved the W but got the OT loss, last night, Phoenix deserved the W and got it! Tigers still have the better roster on paper but, on the ice, they only showed it for 20mins at most. The Phoenix competed and bettered the Tigers for the majority of the game and got the win to show for it. The Phoenix has been down and battered for recent Phoenix is rising once again!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Phoenix Rolling - MK Lightning 02/11/15

Phoenix returned to their West Manchester ice after an enforced break due to an ice plant failure and welcomed the MK Lightning. Going into the weekend the Phoenix had been in, fluctuating form, at best! Without a win on home ice in 4/5 weeks the Phoenix would take confidence from the win against MK on home ice against the Lightning earlier in the season. 

Saturday night saw the Phoenix take the drive down to the Basingstoke arena to take on the high flying Bison. The game was evenly matched for 40 minutes until the Phoenix seemingly tired in the third period and the Bison rattled off 3 unanswered goals to take the game 4-1. 

After heading down the M56 once again it was time to take on the Lightning, who brought a good travelling support with them. The MK Lightning, coached by Pete Russell, have an abundance of offensive talent and, arguably, a little light on defence.....think Swindon and your pretty much there. Emersic still leading the lines and, still a player I have admired and wanted on my team. The game also saw Bobby Chamberlain and Jack Watkins take on the Phoenix once again. The game would also see the welcome return, to home ice, of Mark Thomas. A player the Phoenix have missed since his foot injury a few weeks ago. Mark brings great experience and size to the Phoenix blue line and a little relief for the Phoenix D corps. 

First Period: It was a steady start to the game, both teams working very hard and shutting down any clear chances quickly. Fone was in top form and Jordan Marr, in the MK net, while looking a little shaky at times, were still turning aside any shot on goal. MK did have the edge on the scoring opportunities though with the Phoenix hemmed in their own zone for large parts of the period. The period ended without a goal being scored. 

Second Period: Well, the second period burst into life, 3 goals and two controversial penalty shots. It all started just after the half way point in the game. With the Phoenix third line on the ice pressuring MK back into their own zone, a shot by Corson-Heron was given up for a juicy rebound by Marr for Ben Wood to blast home and open the scoring, the first goal coming at 32min 32sec. The lead did not last long when Lewis Hook received a beut of a pass up centre ice from Michael Farn, with clear ice behind him Hook approached Fone, deaked him and slid the puck through the open 5-hole at 33min 51sec. Parity didnt last long again as the Phoenix re-took the lead 16sec later. Robin Kovar on hand to slot home a rebound from an Archer shot, 2-1 timed at 34min 07sec. The action continued as the Phoenix looked to extend their lead, after a goal mouth scramble a Lightning player closed his hand over the puck in the crease giving the Phoenix a penalty shot. It would be down to Luke Boothroyd to take the shot. After pulling a neat move on Marr, Boothroyd just couldn't lift the puck over Marr's pads and was denied. Minutes later MK were gifted an opportunity to level the game, Bobby Chamberlain being given a rather fortunate penalty shot of his own. Tinted spec's aside, it really was the wrong call by the ref! Either way, justice was done and Chamberlain was denied by Fone. 

Third Period: The third period followed a similar ish pattern to the second, not much happening in the first half, only for the game to spring to life in the second half. The Phoenix went on the powerplay, with Bobby Chamberlain in the box on a 2+10 misconduct penalty. Phoenix extender their lead at 54min 05sec when Stan Gron scored off an assist by Robin Kovar. The potent MK offence reduced the deifict soon after when Blaz Emersic scored at 55min 15sec. Into the last two minutes, MK pulled Jordan Marr for the extra skater and Marko Luomala levelled the game with a deflected shot with just 90sec to go. 

Overtime: Overtime saw both teams create chances, Phoenix having the slight edge. It would be MK who would score the winner, as OT approached its end and the dreaded penalty shots loomed, Leigh Jamieson was found clear infront of the net by Jordan Cownie to score the winner with just 52sec left in the extra period. 

Verdict: A real tough loss to take and, you could see the pain on the Phoenix players as they left the ice. A game in which they dominated for the most part, somehow they ended up losing the game. It was genuinely a result in which the Phoenix can feel hard done by. On top for the majority but it is MK who take the win. The point gained from an OT loss feels much more like a loss than a point gained. Credit to MK though, they took their chances, forced their way back into the game at the end of the third and, took the golden chance in OT. That's how hockey goes some times!