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!