Phoenix fail to sustain lightning start

Saturday, 12th January 2008

Newcastle Vipers 4- 3 Manchester Phoenix

Manchester Phoenix went down to a narrow loss on Tyneside in a game that contained no shortage of incident and talking points.

With the home side having run a massive ticket promotion to boost their attendance, it was Phoenix who exploded out of the blocks as Joe Tallari fired them ahead with just 23 seconds having elapsed. Seventeen seconds later Vipers Andre Payette threw down his gloves to challenge Brett Clouthier and the Phoenix enforcer duly obliged and taking the better of the fight. Both men picked up five minute major penalties for Fighting with Payette an additional 2+10 for Instigation. Further fisticuffs followed in the fifth minute as Vipers Lundin clashed with Tallari and both drew double Roughing minors. The Phoenix' bright start almost saw them double their advantage in the 8th minute only for Jeff MacMillans' shot to cannon back into play off the goalframe and that miss proved costly as the Vipers responded instantly to level the score through Shaun Johnson. Local born Johnson added his and the Vipers second in the 12th minute to put the home side ahead and further hostilities broke out shortly afterwards as Lundin and Luke Stauffacher clashed, both receiving five minute Fighting majors.

Things calmed down slightly in the second session, but former Phoenix player Derek Campbell managed to wrist home a third marker for the Vipers in the 23rd minute. Phoenix responded in kind in a never less than entertaining encounter as Clouthier reduced the margin to a single score just over a minute later. Both sides wasted powerplay chances and it remained a 3-2 score at the second interval.

Phoenix knew they had to up their work rate in the final session and they did just that, however lady luck isn't smiling on them right now and Ben Campbell restored the Vipers two-goal margin in the 46th minute. Clouthier was then assessed an Interference minor and with Vipers looking to capitalise, Phoenix hit back with Luke Stauffacher latching onto a long pass out of defence from goalie Scott Fankhouser to race away and score shorthanded at 47.37. Phoenix were now piling on the pressure, but Ryan MacDonald in the home goal came to the Vipers rescue with some fine saves as Phoenix spurned a number of clear cut chances to at least equalise, and the Vipers took their first league points of the season against Manchester to the pleasure of the home support.

Phoenix player coach Tony Hand noted, "we got a great start and should have been two up before they scored. They were fired up and tried to ruffle our feathers and I was pleased with way we handled their attempts to intimidate us. But, we gave up a couple of goals we shouldn't have and we weren't able to get back on level terms. The effort was there, if the finesse wasn't. This result makes the result of our game on Sunday against Sheffield even more important to our playoff aspirations."

Luke Staffacher

Luke Staffacher scored Phoenix's 3rd goal.
(Image: Richard Murray)

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