Last minute Giants winner sinks Phoenix

Sunday, 16th November 2008

Manchester Phoenix 3 - 4 Belfast Giants

Despite a super showing from netminder Stephen Murphy, Manchester Phoenix came out of Sundays home clash with the resurgent Giants with nothing to show for their efforts.

Phoenix were again without Bruce Mulherin for their only game of the weekend, while the Giants arrived in Altrincham from their 7-6 win in Nottingham on Saturday. But the Giants showed no tiredness and they played at pace throughout the encounter. The visitors opened the scoring in the fifth minute, player coach Steve Thornton turning on a sixpence to squeeze a backhanded rebound past Murphy. Belfast were raiding quickly with their transition through the neutral zone on all three lines operating effectively and Murphy was called upon to make a string of quality saves. Phoenix hit back in the twelfth minute, David-Alexandre Beauregard with another close range finish at the back post on assists from Tony Hand and Luke Fulghum. But before the cheers greeting the equaliser had subsided, the Giants were back in front, Paul Deniset getting the first of his hat-trick haul with his side shorthanded. Phoenix remained calm and composed and again drew level just over a minute later as Giants netminder Stevie Lyle failed to hold a shot from Adam Walker and the puck crept over the line for 2-2 at the first interval.

The second period was played at a tremendous pace with both sides playing open attractive hockey with no quarter asked or given as both sets of players played a physical, but clean game. Again, the feature of the play was the Giants quick transition from defence into attack and again Murphy in the Phoenix goal was called upon to make key saves. His opposite number Lyle didn't see as much of the play, but when called upon, he too responded as the session ended without any further addition to the score line.

The atmosphere from the big crowd in the Altrincham Ice Dome ramped up early in the third period as Walker bagged his second of the game to give the home side their first lead of the game. Having had the better of the play, it was now the Giants turn to chase the game and it took them till a 52nd minute powerplay to force the equaliser, Deniset again on the spot to tie the game up again. The final either minutes were played at a blistering pace and the game seemed destined to go to overtime, but Deniset broke the Phoenix hearts with a last-gasp winner with just 23 seconds to play.

Phoenix player coach Tony Hand reflected, "We worked hard tonight against a very good Belfast side and I thought we'd got the point we deserved. Stephen Murphy was excellent tonight, and it was disappointing to lose it right at the death. I'd just begun to think about the overtime period, but it wasn't to be. We missed Bruce tonight for sure as the Giants rolled three very good lines of forwards. Bruce will have a scan this week and hopefully then we'll learn the exact extent of the injury and how long he'll be out. It's disappointing to lose that late in the game, but we'll bounce back. We got grerat support tonight, the fans were terrific in getting behind us."

Not that there were any complaints from the Belfast Giants on Sunday, but the photos provided by guest photographer Chris Charnock prove that the puck did indeed cross the line for the Phoenix second goal and that referee Moray Hanson was eagle-eyed in his decision making.

Phoenix GM Andy Costigan noted, "Chris and his father Phil, recently asked the club for permission to try live sports photography and Chris bagged these excellent goal-line pictures of the puck crossing the line and was happy to provide them for our use."

Next weekend, Phoenix are at home on Saturday with a 6.30pm face-off against the Hull Stingrays before travelling to Edinburgh on Sunday to take on the Capitals at the Murrayfield Ice Rink.

Phoenix score past Stevie Lyle

The second Phoenix goal
(Image: Chris Charnock )

A closer look at the puck over the line.
(Image: Chris Charnock )

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