Another tough weekend ticked off the list for the Phoenix, facing last seasons League champions then, one of the leagues form teams and current challengers for the EPL title the MK Lightning. Phoenix fans would be forgiven for looking at the weekend and not expecting much by way of points but, for me, the home games vs MK would be the Phoenix best chance of some points.
Saturday night in Telford saw the Phoenix run into penalty trouble with some questionable calls, 3 of the Tigers 7 goals coming with the extra skater the short benched Phoenix just not having enough to stem the flow of goals. Tigers running out 7-2 victors:
Sunday, time to re-group and take on the well rested MK Lightning at Deeside. Of the teams at the top of the EPL the Phoenix probably, have the better record against the MK Lightning. Coming into sunday nights game, Phoenix/MK had played each other a total of 5 times with Phoenix having two wins (one in OT) and MK three (with one being in OT). Phoenix icing with just James Archer missing from the lineup and the Lightning, dressing but not icing McPherson and Jarventie.
First Period: Despite the differences in the rosters the opening period saw little difference on the ice. The game opened at a great pace with some great play from both sides. It was the Phoenix who made the early hey and saw Dean Skinns deny Michal Satek after a slick passing move. Steve Fone was then forced into making numerous saves to keep the Lightning at bay, Lewis Hook and Jordan Cownie being two frustrated by Fone. In an end to end but tight game, the first goal was something straight from slapshot. Mark Thomas brought the puck out from the Phoenix zone into centre ice, as both teams were changing lines he lifted a puck towards the MK goal just to create some time for the changing players. Much to everyone's surprise, both on and off the ice, that puck deceived Skinns and went into the MK net. One to watch again on Phoenix TV, absolutely no one on the ice thought much of it, so took an age for everyone to realise it had gone in! Perhaps some hockey Karma coming back the Phoenix way? That goal timed at 19min 17sec.
Second Period: MK upped their game in the second and the Phoenix rose to match it. This created a more open end to end period with chances galore. Hook again going close for the Lightning only to miss his chance. The Phoenix extended their lead shortly after when Stan Gron executed a perfect pass across the net for Jacob Corson Heron to score mid flight at 25min 32sec. Listen to the Phoenix podcast and the interview with JCH at the end for his thoughts on his goal. Robin Kovar then made it 3-0 when he and Baranek broke free up ice to beat Skinns. Rather harshly, Pete Russell chose this moment to yank Skinns and put Jordan Marr in goal, a little unfortunate really! Perhaps that was the spark that was needed as, MK got their own goal in the period when Hook found Emersic, that man always scores against the Phoenix, to get MK back in the game at 31min 57sec.
Third Period: 3-1 with just a period to go was quickly made 3-2 when Bobby Chamberlain found a gap under Fone's pads at 41min 06sec to reduce the deficit to one goal. The Phoenix needed to work hard and stand up to the MK onslaught. Unable to convert on a 5-on-3 opportunity the Phoenix looked to endure a nervous final session but, on the back of a superb performance from Fone the home side finished the job to close-out a good win!
Verdict: A tough weekend and the Phoenix managed a win from it, probably as much as we could have hoped for. The MK Lightning are a very good team but, one I do fancy the Phoenix doing well against. It was a superb all round game from the Phoenix, outshot and outchanced the Phoenix soaked up the pressure and took the chances when they came. A great reward and, a glimpse of what could have been this season!