Last weekend was quite an important one for the Phoenix, on the ice at least! Over the two days they would be playing the team directly above them in the table (Sheffield) and the team at the foot of the EPL (Bracknell). In the fight for the last couple of playoff spots it could turn out to be a pivotal weekend in that fight. Saturday saw a rare home game for the Phoenix as they entertained the Sheffield Steeldogs, followed by a Sunday away day to face the Bracknell Bees.
Sheffield came to Deeside in 7th place and, for the past month or so, possibly the form team of the EPL. Sheffield were always a hard working team but, this years roster has some added bite (ahem). Big comeback wins against the likes of MK spring to mind. Plus a come from behind win in PS against the Phoenix a week or so ago. Saturday nights game would be tough all round but, one the Phoenix could still win!
First Period: The game opened up with both sides gaining some early chances, Fone and Sedlar in action early. The visitors looked the more likely to score however and, just after the 5min mark the Steeldogs took the lead. At 5 minutes the Steeldogs combined to light the lamp, Hirst and Duncombe combined to provide Lascek with the opportunity and he took it. The Phoenix remained well in the game but were coming up against Sedlar who was in fine form. Moving into the 2nd half of the period Jacob Corson-Heron picked up a 2 minute minor for high sticking. Andy Hirst, set up by Lascek and Squires converted on the extra man advantage to put the Steeldogs up 2-0 by the end of the first period.
Second Period: I must admit, even at this early stage, with the Steeldogs ahead by two, I did not see much chance of the Phoenix getting a result. The Steeldogs are a very hard working team and, when they have a lead, are able to sit on it and defend. The second period followed a similar pattern to the first, Phoenix competing and creating chances only to be denied by Sedlar. Sheffield able to soak up the pressure then change up a gear when needed. Sheffield got the first goal of the period when some excellent play released Ashley Calvert who pinged a shot in off the post to give the Steeldogs a 3-0 lead. The third goal coming at 23min 05sec. The Phoenix finally got on the board approaching the games half way point. Kovar and Gron combined to find Satek clear on the back post who scored at 28min 18sec. Sheffield then sealed the game over a four minute spell, Bosas came up with two goals to put Sheffield 5-1 up. The first coming at 30min 12sec, then with the aid of a deflection made it 5 at 34min 14sec. As the period ticked down the Phoenix did score a consolation goal when Stan Gron weaved his way his way through the Sheffield defence and score at 39min 29sec.
Third Period: With the score at 5-2 Sheffield the points were settled, pride was at stake now. With the result looking all but a formality the Phoenix still worked hard and gave Sheffield a game. That hard work paid off when Jacob Corson-Heron tipped in a pass from Gron to make the score 5-3 at 45min 21sec. Sheffield were able to respond and settle the game, deservedly too, with two goals late in the game. Ben Morgan fired home a superb shot at 54min 19sec and Lascek got a goal soon after. At 55min 42sec his goal making the final score 7-3 Sheffield.
Verdict: A disappointing loss seeing as though the Phoenix were more than equal in the game. Sheffield, though, deserved the win, they work very hard in their own zone to frustrate the opposition, they were able to soak up the Phoenix pressure and Sedlar gave them the basis from which to work. It did seem like Sheffield had a gear or two spare and were able to utilise that when ever the Phoenix got close.