Phoenix deliver on four-point weekend demand

Monday, 17th December 2007

Manchester Phoenix 5 – 3 Basingstoke Bison

Manchester Phoenix overcame their Basingstoke hoodoo on Sunday night with an at times nail-biting victory over the Hampshire side, and in the process making it four points from the weekend.

Phoenix coach Tony Hand told his players before Saturday’s trip to Edinburgh that he was looking for two wins this weekend and the team responded doing just that. The opening period on Sunday saw Phoenix pepper the Bison goal with shots, but with Curtis Cruikshank in inspired form, amazingly the first period finished scoreless with Phoenix failing to capitalise on the only powerplay opportunity.

The home side grabbed the lead in the 24th minute as the all-British third line of forwards carved a marvellous opening through Nick Whyatt and Rhys McWilliams for Adam Walker to notch his third goal of the season with a fine shot. With former Phoenix player David Vychodil in the penalty box for the visitors, Joe Tallari gave Phoenix a two-goal edge in the 28th minute as they looked to take a stranglehold over visitors only icing with eleven skaters. Tallari then spurned a glorious chance to extend the Phoenix lead with a shorthanded breakaway that saw him lift his shot high over the goalframe. A sloppy line change moments later saw Phoenix penalised for Too Many Men and the resulting powerplay allowed Basingstoke to reduce the arrears as Greg Owen bagged the first of a personal brace. Owens’ second goal came with less than 40 seconds to go in the second session and Phoenix went to the locker rueing several gilt-edged chances that had gone begging.

Tallari, with his second of the game, restored the home advantage in the 44th minute, however Basingstoke would not lie down and again drew level three minutes later, Danny Stewart with a neat finish beating Scott Fankhouser. The game was now poised on a knife-edge and with every passing minute, the prospect of a next goal winner or sudden death overtime loomed ever larger. Phoenix got the breakthrough they deserved and wanted desperately with just less than two minutes to play as Omar Ennaffati crashed home a shot from the slot. With the home fans on their feet, Basingstoke used their 30-second timeout to plan one final assault and having withdrawn Cruikshank for the extra skater, it was left to Tony Hand to slide the puck practically the length of the ice for the empty-netter insurance goal at 59.40.

Hand noted afterwards, “we had plenty of chances in both games this weekend to have won by more convincing margins. The nett result though is we got the four points we wanted and we can look to build upon this in the five remaining games we’ve got before the turn of the year. Their goalie had a terrific game tonight, we have to get more clinical in front of goal, but I cannot fault the workrate of my guys.”

Next weekend sees Phoenix travel to the Cardiff Devils on Saturday before facing the Welsh side again on Sunday in the Silver Blades Ice Dome.

Joe Tallari

Tallari iced after a short injury break to score twice for the home side
(Image: Richard Murray)

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