Phoenix lose to Vipers in penalty shoot-out drama

Saturday, 27th September 2008

Newcastle Vipers 2 – 1 Manchester Phoenix

Newcastle Vipers gained penalty shoot-out revenge on Saturday night as the second encounter of the season against Manchester Phoenix failed to produce a clear winner in open play.

Josh Garbutt was again missing from the Phoenix line-up as they faced-off against an under-strength vipers squad missing Todd Griffith and Rob Rankin through suspension. Phoenix took the game to their hosts in the opening period outshooting them 15-7 and posting the opening goal in the sixth minute as Bruce Mulherin fired them ahead unassisted. Both sides failed to capitalise on two respective powerplay opportunities and the visitors took the slender lead into the first interval.

Newcastle used the break to amend their tactics that had given up too much possession and transition play to the Phoenix in the first period. After killing an early penalty on Dean Holland, they gradually worked their way back into the game and it was Holland who drew them level in the final minute of the session, much to the disappointment of the travelling Phoenix supporters.

With both sides keen to secure the win in regulation time, the pace of the third period increased and Phoenix were forced to kill penalties against Luke Boothroyd and netminder Stephen Murphy to keep the Vipers at bay. For their part, the home side too had to work hard to deny the Phoenix as Vipers Rob Wilson and Jez Lundin both sat out two-minute minors inside the final ten minutes. Phoenix had the better of the play, but neither side could break the deadlock and sudden death overtime ensued.

The additional five-minutes of four-on-four play also failed to produce a winner and it was the Vipers who claimed the second point courtesy of the game-winning penalty shot from captain David Longstaff.

A philosophical Phoenix player coach Tony Hand remarked afterwards, “both teams battled hard tonight and any point taken on the road is a good one. We had a lot of shots, we hit the goalframe a number of times and I was very impressed with the performance of (Andrew) Verner in the Vipers net. Of course, it was disappointing to lose the shoot-out, but we got a point and the team played well. We have a big game at home against Sheffield on Sunday and we know they’ll be coming at us hard.”

Stephen Murphy

Netminder Stephen Murphy won Man of the Match for Phoenix

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