Cruikshank late double sinks Phoenix effort

Sunday, 30th December 2007

Basingstoke Bison 5 - 4 Manchester Phoenix

Manchester Phoenix rounded off 2007 and a five games in eight nights Christmas schedule with a heartbreaking last minute loss to Basingstoke on Saturday night. Leading courtesy of Jeff MacMillans' first goal of the season with less than a minute to play, Phoenix fell to a double strike from Bison captain Brad Cruikshank that stole the points for the home side.

Basingstoke iced just ten skaters and two goalies, but made up for their lack of numbers with a performance of energy and grit as at times Phoenix threatened to swamp them. Phoenix dominated the opening exchanges and took a deserved lead inside five minutes, Brian Passmore pouncing on a rebound on a Brett Clouthier shot. The home responded on their first powerplay opportunity, Danny Stewart burying a rebound at 7.22 after Scott Fankhouser had pad saved from David Vychodil. Both sides exchanged powerplay chances and Phoenix were unlucky not to regain the lead on a couple of occasions before the first interval.

Early penalties on Passmore and Joe Tallari in the second period gave Bison over a minute of a two-man advantage and they used the extra space to grab the lead at 22.36 with Greg Chambers netting. Phoenix battled their way back into the game and enjoyed more possession and scoring opportunities, but found Curtis Cruickshank in the Bison goal in inspired form with a string of fine saves. Phoenix eventually ground out an equaliser in the 38th minute, Joe Tallari making the most of a feed from Tony Hand to again send the teams to the locker room with the scoreline tied.

Basingstoke retook the lead in the 41st minute with their third powerplay marker, Greg Owen on target from close range. Phoenix hit back inside two minutes, Tallari bagging his second of the game assisted by Jeff MacMillan and it was the big defenceman with his first goal of the season at 57.24 blasting home a pass from Passmore that looked to have clinched victory. But a late Tripping penalty against Omar Ennaffati gave the Bison the chance to pull their goalie for a sixth skater and they tied the game with just forty seconds remaining through their captain Brad Cruikshank. And sixteen second later, Cruikshank bagged the game winner from exactly the same position on the right side capitalising on a Scott Basiuk turnover.

Phoenix player coach Tony Hand was understandably disappointed, but philosophical when he commented, “That was our fifth game in eight nights and I think we were mentally tired in some quarters. We made more than enough chances tonight and should have had the game won. But credit Basingstoke, they worked hard and took their chances. I’m not sure that the shots on goal count is reflective of the possession and chances we enjoyed and created, but it’s goals that count and tonight, we didn’t get enough. I had wanted eight points from these five games, but will have to settle for the six we've taken.”

Jeff MacMillan

Jeff MacMillan scored his first goal in a Phoenix shirt to put the team ahead at 57:24, but two more from Bison clinched the match for the home side.
(Image: Richard Murray)

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