Phoenix overcome Panthers in exhibition goalfest

Sunday, 31st August 2008

Manchester Phoenix 7 – 5 Nottingham Panthers

Adam Walker and Nathan Ward both bagged a brace of goals apiece as the Manchester Phoenix came out victorious in a thoroughly entertaining pre-season challenge game on Sunday night against the Nottingham Panthers.

The game opened at a blistering pace more reminiscent of a playoff game than a pre-season challenge and after falling behind to a first minute strike from Panthers Brendan Cook, Phoenix responded in some style sweeping into a 3-1 lead courtesy of the brace from Adam Walker, the first a shorthand strike just five seconds after he's exited the penalty box – making it five goals on the weekend for him – and the first of the season for player coach Tony Hand. Both teams were giving all their players plenty of ice time, although the Panthers chose to start with their number two netminder Geoff Woolhouse ahead of Davis Parley who only arrived in the UK on Saturday. The quick pace was evident right through the period and can only bode well for the Elite League if all clubs adopt this refreshingly open style of hockey that produced lots of opportunities for both sides.

Nottingham gathered their thoughts in the first break and reversed the flow of the game in the second period as James Neil reduced the arrears before a powerplay strike from Bruce Richardson tied the score just past the midway point. Phoenix regained the lead as Nathan Ward coolly slotted home his first off a feed from Hand only for former Phoenix star Johan Molin to crash home another equaliser.

Phoenix were probably disappointed to be tied at 4-4 going into the final period but, again got their noses in front as Alex Dunn powered in a long range blast on a powerplay in the 46th minute. The game though continued to ebb and flow with the Panthers outshooting their hosts and once again they drew level with David Clarke marking his return to the Panthers line-up with just over ten minutes to play. Cue the rallying call and the need for a bit of inspiration and a clean offensive zone face-off win by Tony Hand found Nathan Ward perfectly positioned to one-time another go-ahead goal just over a minute later. Phoenix wrapped up the win in the 56th minute as David Beauregard was on the end of another Hand and Ward inspired move to crash home his first goal of the season from the left wing circle.

A Phoenix spokesperson commented, “In the space of 24 hours, there were signs that the guys are already building understandings. Wardy and Tony looked sharp tonight and Grant Jacobsen combined excellently with Brett Clouthier. Adam Walker looks to well and have truly put his problems of last season behind him and that only be good for both him and the club. The guys will have four on-ice sessions this week before going into the opening weekend of the league campaign and if we can get one or two more of the others in from North America, we should be okay for the first weekend.”