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!