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Fighting fracas disrupts Phoenix effort

Sunday, 20th January 2008

Belfast Giants 6 - 2 Manchester Phoenix

Manchester Phoenix flew to Belfast early on Saturday morning knowing that they had a massive task ahead of them as the hometown Giants were looking to extend their winning streak to twelve straight games.

An even opening period in the Odyssey Arena saw both netminders facing nine shots apiece with the opening goal going the Giants way in the eleventh minute, Peter Campbell scoring unassisted with Brian Passmore sitting out a minor penalty for Tripping. Phoenix responded two minutes later on a powerplay opportunity when Giants defenceman Roman Gavalier went to the sin-bin for Hooking and Sean Starke capitalised on the extra space available to him to beat Stevie Lyle in the Giants goal. Phoenix killed minor penalties on Rhys McWilliams and goalie Scott Fankhouser with the Giants also successfully getting Shane Johnson back after a Hooking infringement. The period ended with Johnson again in the penalty box and Phoenix with over 90 seconds of powerplay to start the second period.

Belfast killed off the penalty on Johnson to start the second session, a period that saw an increasing number of penalties dished out as the game began to get more physical and confrontational. Penalties on Mark Marrison and Jeff MacMillan were killed respectively before the first sign of tetchiness reared as Morrison and Luke Stauffacher swapped punches on the 30-minute mark. Mark Dutiame and Johnson, with his third penalty of the game together with MacMillan on his second minor also visited the penalty boxes before a costly Charging call against Brett Clouthier for a hit on Giants player coach Ed Courtenay proved to be the turning point. On the next play, tony Hand released Joe Tallari and he was hauled down and awarded a penalty shot. Tallari missed the shot and the Giants raced up the other end of the ice with Dutiame edging the Giants in front on the games third powerplay marker in the 38th minute. Within seconds of the restart, the blue touch paper was well and truly lit as heavyweights Carlyle Lewis and Clouthier fought and barely had the dust settled on that bout than Morrison and Stauffacher renewed their acquaintance and hostilities – all four players picking up 5-minute Fighting majors. And the disruption suited the home side the better as Lewis Christie increased the Giants lead in the final minute of the period leaving Phoenix a mountain to climb in the final twenty minutes.

The third period saw a quieter opening as both sides reverted to playing hockey and the penalties subsided. The Giants, keen to extend their excellent recent form and keep sonme pressure on the league-leading Coventry Blaze, secured the result in the 48th minute, Carlyle Lewis scoring unassisted to give the home side a lead they would not relinquish. And four minutes later Mark Dutiame added a fifth as the Giants threatened to run riot. Phoenix though showed they would not go down without a fight and just over a minute later Stauffacher scored their second unassisted, the fourth such goal of the game. However, the Giants were not to be denied and Scott Cameron added the home sides’ third goal of the period and sixth of the game in the 56th minute in a final session that did not see one penalty called by referee Andy Carson.


Phoenix player coach Tony Hand commented, “The turning point was definitely the Charging penalty, the penalty shot miss, and then them taking the lead. Up till then, we had played well and handled them well, but the disruption with the fighting energised them more than we expected and they made the most of their opportunities. After such a tough game, I’m glad we have Sunday off as we need to re-group and prepare for the home double-header next weekend.”

Sean Starke

Sean Starke won Man of the Match for Phoenix
(Image: Richard Murray)


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