Phoenix respond in style to blunt Panthers title hopes

Sunday, 4th January 2009

Manchester Phoenix 4 - 2 Nottingham Panthers

Phoenix player coach Tony Hand asked his players for a positive response to Saturdays' disappointing loss in Belfast and his squad responded in style with a display of pace, energy and commitment against a Nottingham side still harbouring title aspirations.

Fresh from their win over the defending champions, Nottingham started confidently and Stephen Murphy was soon in the action with saves from Cook and Bergin as the Panthers sought to gain an early advantage. Phoenix rode their luck in the ninth minute as a left wing blast from Dan Tessier beat Murphy but came back off the post to keep the game scoreless. Phoenix responded with Michel Robinson in the Panthers goal denying Nathan Ward before the visitors opened the scoring in the 18th minute as Brendan Cook tallied. And the Panthers thought they opened up a two-goal margin shortly after the re-start as Kevin Bergin fired through traffic, but referee Tom Darnell ruled a Panthers player had been stood in the goal crease.

The second session saw Phoenix draw level on a 27th minute powerplay as Ward and Hand combined to find David-Alexandre Beauregard at the back post and the leagues leading scorer swept home the equaliser. The game was being played at a frenetic pace, both sides were taking penalties, but neither side able to break the deadlock before the second interval as both Robinson for the Panthers and Murphy for the Phoenix stood firm between the pipes.

The visitors regained the lead in the 44th minute with Bergin the goal scorer, but Phoenix didn't panic or let their heads drop and when Panthers player coach Corey Neilson took a Delay of Game penalty shortly afterwards, it was Beauregard again on the mark to tie the score at two apiece, assisted by Hand and Luke Fulghum. With the home crowd roaring them on, Phoenix began to grow in belief and the roof nearly came off the Altrincham ice Dome when crowd favourite Brett Clouthier fired a left wing shot that Robinson in the Panthers goal found too hot to handle in the 53rd minute. Nottingham began to throw everything they had at the Phoenix and Murphy responded with more super stops. Phoenix stayed calm while killing a late penalty on captain Kenton Smith and wrapped up the points as the tireless Nathan Ward scored into an unguarded Panthers goal with just one second remaining on the clock.

Panthers player coach Corey Neilson remarked, "We knew coming here that we would have to be at our best as Manchester are a good team. You can't give the likes of the Hand, Fulghum, Beauregard line time and space and expect to get away with it. Michel (Robinson) played well in goal for us tonight, but new didn't give him enough help, me included and we paid the price."

Phoenix player/coach Tony Hand commented, "The guys responded magnificently tonight in a game that both sides were desperate to win. All our games against the Panthers this season have been exciting and hard-fought and tonight was no exception. They're a big, tough team and we had to match them. The guys were excellent tonight, everyone contributed and this result is a huge two points for us."

Phoenix are away in Newcastle on Saturday night, and play host to Coventry on Sunday 11th January - face-off 5:30 at the Attrincham Ice Dome.

Stephen Murphy

Stephen Murphy earned his second MOM award of the weekend.

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