2016, a new year, hopefully a more positive one for the Phoenix. After the home game v Telford after Christmas was cancelled the home support have had an enforced break from Hockey. Last night saw the home season get back underway after the Chrismtas/New Year period. The visitors to the WMMP this time were the Hull Pirates, their last visit saw the Pirates get their first win of the season with an OT success. Hopefully this time round the Phoenix would come out on top.
Saturday night saw the Phoenix take the drive down the Shropshire and take on their former Red Hockey brothers the Tigers. In what sounded like a close game, with end to end hockey, at least for the Phoenix, was spoilt by a less than balanced officiating performance in the final stanza. It comes to something when, the excellent, commentary team for the game (with slight understandable Tigers bias) were talking about the Phoenix being 'shafted' by the calls! Either way the game ended with a tight 4-3 win for the home side but, an encouraging performance from the Phoenix.
After making his debut for the Phoenix in Telford the night before, sunday saw Martin Baranek take to home ice for the first time. Baranek coming in to fill the boots of Nico Aaltonen who had to leave due to personal circumstances. Thank you Nico and I hope all is well for you!
First Period: The Phoenix and Pirates faced off and got the opening period off to a quick start. Some good end to end hockey saw Fone and Raitums called into early action. The home side began to exert some control on the game looking, almost a completely different team to the past couple of weeks. Its amazing what can happen with a new player icing and the return of an old favourite. Kovar and Gron having some good early chances only to be denied by both Raitums and the pipework! A goal would come in the opening session and, one for the home side. Stanislav Gron was fed by Ben Wood racing up the left wing, Gron unleashed an awesome shot from the left circle which beat Raitums and hit the top corner of the net. The Phoenix ahead at 17min 42sec.
Second Period: Both teams traded chances and goals in the second period. Defence was not a strong point for either team in the game! Its a wonder why both are to the bottom of the table ;). Hull brought themselves level in the game when Tommi Laine scored after a mad scramble round the net, that goal timed at 26min 40sec. The Phoenix then had a run of PP opportunities without success but, after returning to even strength Kovar found Baranek from behind Raitums net, Baranek then finding the top corner to score the Phoenix second and his first on home ice, the goal timed at 36min 13sec. That lead would last all of a minute and a half, the Pirates tenacity forcing the Phoenix into an error and Warren Tait levelling the game once again at 37min 45sec.
Third Period: It was Hull who took the initiative in the final period, just 25 sec in Natham Salem skating up ice along the right wing and nailing a shot past Fone, 40min 25sec with fans still taking their seats! That prompted a response from the home side who upped the pressure. James Archer hitting the post, Baranek also rang the metal work. It was 42min 23sec when the puck found Ben Wood on the blue line who ripped a wrist shop goalwards only for Michael Satek to tip the puck and divert it past Raitums to level the game. That goal lifted the Phoenix and it would be Gron who hit the pipework next. Hull had Tom Ralph ejected for a high stick penalty (match) on O'Flaherty, Gareth did return to the game so, Ralph's penalty should be downgraded. Baranek got his second goal of the game, and gave the Phoenix the lead at 46min 32sec on a superb back hand effort. In a theme of the game James Archer was once again denied by the pipework later on. As mentioned above, defencive performance was not good from either side and, it would be turnover errors that would cost the game for the Phoenix. After turning over the puck in the Pirates zone the Phoenix conceeded two quick fire goals to give the Pirates the regulation win. Lee Bonner equilised at 58min 01sec before Tommi Laine fired his second of the night at 58min 47sec. Game ending with a 5-4 win for Hull.
Verdict: Lets deal with the positives first, with the addition of Baranek and Gron returning the Phoenix looked a different, more positive, team to that of the past few weeks. Hopefully when Phil Hamer suits up and the return of James Neil from long term injury, the Phoenix should look something like a complete team! Sadly, sunday night and especially the third period was filled with defensive errors. 4 of Hull's 5 goals were breakaway efforts, 2 of which came from turnovers in the offensive zone. Last nights game should have been one we targeted for a win, a much much needed one in recent weeks. So to lose, and lose in the fashion we did was very very disappointing! I know I should feel positive about the club, especially after the new additions but, the drive home from the WMMP was a frustrating one!