Phoenix squeeze out season-opening win

Saturday, 6th September 2008

Hull Stingrays 3 -4 Manchester Phoenix

Manchester Phoenix let slip a first period three-goal lead but, recovered to squeeze out a morale-boosting victory over a hard-fighting Stingrays outfit in the opening game of the 2008-09 bmibaby Elite League season.

Phoenix, with new arrivals Bruce Mulherin and Kyle Bruce fresh off their planes and icing, got off to the perfect start as with just 24 seconds having elapsed, David Beauregard fired them into the lead assisted by player coach Tony Hand and Nathan Ward. Both sides killed off their first penalties but, when Nathan Ward was binned for Tripping in the 12th minute, Phoenix turned the shorthanded situation on its head with two goals in a 26-second spell. First defenceman Alex Dunn capitalised on a feed from Kyle Bruce and straight from the restart, former Hull favourite Luke Boothroyd found Adam Walker and the Scot buried the puck into the Stingrays for a 3-0 Phoenix lead. Hull used their timeout to steady the ship and duly reduced the arrears in the 15th minute as Pavel Gomenyuk beat Stephen Murphy but, it was Tony Hand the happier of the two coaches at the first interval.

The Stingrays came out strongly for the second session and their pressure tolled just before the half-hour mark as newly appointed captain Troy Neumeier scored on a powerplay with Boothroyd off for Interference. And the Hull fightback was completed three minutes later as Slava Koulikov tied the scores to send the home support into raptures. Now it the Phoenix turn to ride out the storm and they did to take the 3-3 tie to the locker room after 40 minutes.

Hull immediately put the visitors under pressure at the start of the third period and Phoenix succumbed to penalties against Nathan Ward and Tony Hand that led Hand into a 10-minute major for Unsportsmanlike Conduct. Phoenix battled hard to kill the minor penalties and on a 46th minute powerplay of their own, the man signed to be the sniper, David Beauregard bagged his second of the game assisted by Mulherin. With both sides battling hard for the first night win, penalties continued to flow but, neither could capitalise again and it was the Phoenix holding on to a hard fought lead that saw out the clock to take the points.

Head Coach Tony Hand commented, "Naturally, I'm very pleased to get the win and two points from a game that I thought we were always in control of. Credit to Hull though and they showed a lot of spirit, I think the crowd tonight saw two teams much improved on last season. It was a good game, hard-fought but, somewhat disrupted by penalties that reduced the flow of the game for both teams. We hit the pipework twice so overall, I'm satisfied with the outcome and I'm sure we've got a lot more to come once we get the other two guys into the line-up."

Phoenix commence their home game schedule at 5.30pm on Sunday with the visit of the Newcastle Vipers to the Altrincham Ice Dome.