Hand rolls back the years with stunning hat-trick haul

Saturday, 18th October 2008

Nottingham Panthers 1 – 4 Manchester Phoenix

Phoenix player coach Tony Hand rolled back the years as he bagged a stunning hat trick in leading his team to a terrific victory in the National Ice Centre. And the Phoenix pleasure was doubled as news came in from Belfast that the Giants had beaten Newcastle ensuring Phoenix progress into the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup.

With the face-off delayed by a box-office failure, Phoenix settled much the quicker of the two teams with Hand opening the scoring in the third minute. Phoenix thought they’d added a second when a Bruce Mulherin shot appeared to tickle the twine, but referee Mat Thompson ruled otherwise. However Phoenix would not be denied and killing a seventh minute penalty on Kenton Smith, Luke Fulghum broke down the right wing and Mulherin was perfectly positioned to beat Davis Parley for two-nil. The Panthers, who have been riding high in the standings, tried to hit back but found GB goalie Stephen Murphy in scintillating form between the pipes and he earned the first interval lead with a string of impressive saves.

The second period saw Phoenix playing a textbook road game as they soaked up Panthers pressure and always looked threatening on the break. The only disappointing moment being Brett Clouthier picking up a 2+10 Checking to the Head penalty when he flattened Matt Myers in front of the home team bench.

Tony Hand gave Phoenix the perfect start to the final period as finished an excellent pass from Nathan Ward with a clinical finish from the slot in the 43rd minute. Panthers were now desperate to get back into the game and they pulled a goal back in controversial style in the 46th minute – Dan Tessier blasting in a shot that appeared to hit the post only for the referee to immediately signal a goal. Phoenix protests went unheeded as they claimed the goal judge had failed to light his lamp. The home side tried hard to turn up the heat, but Phoenix were in no mood to relinquish anything else and sealed the victory in style as the evergreen Hand raced away short-handed in the 59th minute and bamboozled Parley with a sweet top corner finish to complete his Man of the Match clinching treble.

A Phoenix spokesperson remarked, “Understandably, Tony’s personal performance will grab the headlines and rightly so, but this was a tremendous team effort. Every Phoenix player contributed, Stephen Murphy was superb in goal and on any other night would probably have scooped the Man of the Match award. And the news that our semi-final spot in the Challenge Cup is now confirmed put the cherry on the cake.”

Phoenix are on the road again on Sunday with a 6.00pm face-off against the Edinburgh Capitals at the Murrayfield Ice Rink

Tony Hand

Hat-trick scorer Tony Hand won Man of the Match for Phoenix

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