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 bit....glass 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 weeks......now.....the Phoenix is rising once again!