Panthers victory spoils Hand's milestone match

Sunday, 27th January 2008

Manchester Phoenix 3 – 4 Nottingham Panthers

An untidy goal from Patrik Wallenburg midway through the third period saw the Nottingham Panthers steal two points from the Manchester Phoenix on Sunday and spoil the evening when Phoenix player coach Tony Hand was celebrating playing in his 1000th game in regular league season play.

Phoenix commemorated Hand’s magnificent milestone achievement by presenting him with a specially commissioned shirt and a bottle of champagne and the big crowd of Phoenix and Panthers supporters gave him a well-deserved standing ovation.

And his team got things off to a flying start as just 63 seconds had elapsed when Luke Stauffacher on the edge of the crease sweetly deflected a pass from Scott Basiuk past Tom Askey for the opening goal of the game. A keenly fought and competitive first period ensued with both netminders making key saves and both sides spurning their opening powerplay opportunities. Phoenix appeared to heading to the first break with the lead, but the big-spending Panthers drew level in the 18th minute as Wallenburg scored the first of his personal brace of goals.

The visitors increased their workrate in the second session and on-loan goalie Steve Fone again excelled for the Phoenix with some superb saves and fully earning the applause from the home support. Phoenix too had chances and Askey for the Panthers had to be alert to deny Brian Passmore and Adam Walker as Phoenix sought the go-ahead goal. Disappointingly, it was a defensive error from captain Scott Basiuk that led to the Panthers stealing the second period. A poorly directed and underplayed pass was picked off by Kevin Bergin and the Panthers forward was able to skate in on goal and beat Fone with just eight seconds remaining in the period.

Phoenix came out for the third period determined to draw level and they took just 47 seconds to achieve that initial target, Brian Passmore blasting home from the right flank with Askey rooted to the spot. The game was now a tight and tense affair until the 48th minute when Panthers managed to work the puck low around the Phoenix net and Ryan Shymr forced home the visitors third goal. Once again, Phoenix responded superbly and within a minute, it was Hand himself who struck an unstoppable shot from the top of the left circle that beat Askey on the short side to again tie the score line. Phoenix should have took the lead shortly afterwards a wickedly spinning puck ended up at the foot of Askeys’ left hand post and as Hand tried to force it home, the spin took the puck wide instead of into the goal. Panthers made the most of this good fortune in the 52nd minute and another scramble around the Phoenix net saw Wallenburg net his second and what proved to be the game-winning goal. Phoenix worked hard to try and force another equaliser, but it wasn’t to be and the Panthers, unbelievably, registered their first four-point weekend of the season.

Speaking afterwards Tony Hand commented, “I thought the guys played ever so well in both games this weekend and we were unlucky this evening not to take at least a point from the game. I was very impressed with Steve Fone in goal and want to thank him for his effort on our behalf, and but for a couple of bad bounces, he might have had a two-win weekend.” On his own achievement of reaching 1000 games Hand remarked, “I didn’t know about that till late on Saturday and it was very moving to have that honoured by the club and the supporters on the night, I’m just sorry we couldn’t give them a four-point weekend to celebrate as well.”

Tony Hand

Phoenix's Tony Hand celebrated his 1000th regular season league match
(Image: Richard Murray)

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