Phoenix push champions elect all the way

Saturday, 8th March 2008

Manchester Phoenix 4 - 6 Coventry Blaze

A superb third period fightback by Manchester Phoenix saw them almost snatch a point against the Champions Elect Coventry Blaze in an excellent game on Saturday night. 

Coventry arrived in Altrincham on the brink of securing the bmibaby Elite League title and a display of clinical finishing gave them a 4-1 advantage by the second interval. But if the Blaze expected the Phoenix to fold, they were shaken as the home side roared back in a terrific final session and it took a controversial empty-netter in the final minute to secure the points for the visitors.

The game started at a quick pace with both goalies seeing plenty of action as both sides worked hard for the opening goal. Coventry it was who gained the first period advantage as Jonathan Weaver beat Scott Fankhouser in the 12th minute. The Phoenix goalie produced a brilliant flying save shortly afterward to deny Russ Cowley while Trevor Koenig in the Blaze net saved well from Brian Passmore, Brett Clouthier and Jeff MacMillan.

Phoenix equalised on a 24th minute powerplay as Brian Passmore converted a Joe Tallari pass at the back post, but the Phoenix celebrations were cut short as the Blaze regained their lead just 23 seconds later, Adam Calder – the leagues leading scorer – netting. Koenig protected the lead with a superb double save to deny Passmore a second marker before Carlson for the Blaze saw a shot come back of a post. With Simon Mangos serving a Hooking penalty, Coventry’s deadly powerplay clicked into gear as Curtis Huppe scored into the top corner in the 29th minute and when Tom Watkins added a fourth goal for the visitors in the 35th minute, it looked all over for Phoenix despite them being ahead in the shots on goal count. 

Phoenix upped their work rate again in the third period, but Koenig made the saves to provide the springboard for Calder to add his second on the night and Coventry’s fifth in the 48th minute. Phoenix though responded magnificently and Joe Tallari crashed in a superb one-timer with just less than ten minutes to play to spark belief in a fightback. And when Tony Hand added a third in the 56th minute, the champions elect were rattled. The Phoenix supporters almost lifted the roof off the Ice Dome in the 58th minute when Brett Clouthier blasted home to make it a one-goal score line. Phoenix pulled Scott Fankhouser in the final minute as they poured forward in search of an equaliser only for Blaze to secure the win on an empty-net finish from Dan Carlson, despite strong protests from the Phoenix team for an icing call that they thought the linesmen had signalled before Carlson netted.

Phoenix player coach Tony Hand commented, “Coventry are a very good side and their finishing tonight was clinical. They got the goaltending they needed from Trevor Koenig and punished us when they got forward, particularly in the second period. At 5-1, I can imagine some supporters thought it was game over, but our guys fought back and showed the kind of effort that we’ll need to take into the playoffs. Overall, I thought we played well tonight against a very good side closing in a championship. Results elsewhere tonight have seen us guaranteed into the playoffs, so we’ll now wait to see who we get and then look towards those games with relish.” 

Brett Clouthier

Brett Clouthier scored Phoenix's fourth, but Coventry managed to stay ahead to take the points
(Image: Richard Murray)

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