Phoenix fire playoff warning

Saturday, 22nd March 2008

Nottingham Panthers 2 – 4 Manchester Phoenix

Manchester Phoenix gave notice that their focus on the post-season playoffs has already kicked into gear with a stunning victory in the National ice Centre on Saturday night.

Still missing Sean Starke and Matt Rich, Phoenix were up against a Panthers team already confirmed in third place in the league and looking to defend their playoff title in the coming weeks. The Panthers began strongly, heavily outshooting the visitors in the first period without opening the score. That privilege went to the Phoenix in the 15th minute with Adam Walker on the mark with just his fifth goal of the season. Nottingham equalised three minutes later, Mark Richardson on a powerplay punishing a Cross-Checking minor against Phoenix captain Scott Basiuk to send the teams to the locker room tied after one period.

Phoenix killed an early second period penalty on Omar Ennaffati before failing to capitalise on two powerplay opportunities of their own either side of the midway point of the game. Phoenix had stifled the Panthers early attacking prowess and were enjoying more possession and shocked the partisan home crowd by regaining the lead in the 38th minute as Joe Tallari buried a feed from Luke Stauffacher with his 53rd marker of the campaign.

Phoenix had to sharp again at the start of the third session to kill off another indiscretion by Ennaffati, before the Hungarian international atoned for his penalty errors by firing the Phoenix into a two-goal lead on a 46th minute powerplay with Panthers McAslan sitting out a Slashing minor. And it got better for the visitors as three minutes later, the tireless Brian Passmore made it a 1-4 score. A hooking penalty on Phoenix player coach tony Hand gave the Panthers a chance to reduce the arrears as Patrik Wallenburg scored their second goal of the game in the 52nd minute. The stage was set for a thrilling finale, but Phoenix were in no mood to give up what they’d worked so hard for and the defence was outstanding in repelling the Panthers attacks to record an excellent morale-boosting victory. And they even survived a final minute Wallenburg penalty shot as referee Hicks adjudged the Phoenix net had been deliberately dislodged, but the Swede couldn’t make the opportunity count.

A Phoenix spokesperson commented, “We’ve said all along that our target was the post-season and this performance and result over one of the big-spending teams in the league would indicate that the players are well aware of the situation. We soaked up a lot of early pressure tonight before giving better than we got. The guts worked hard and deserved the result. That said, our final game in Hull on Sunday will probably see us give a couple of players a rest. We’ve got one or two players nursing minor niggles and with no disrespect to the Stingrays, we won’t risk aggravating any situation in a game that has no bearing on the standings for either side.”  

Joe Tallari

Joe Tallari won 'Man Of The Match' for Phoenix
(Image: Richard Murray)

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