Vipers edge Phoenix in best of nine on Tyneside

Saturday, 10th January 2009

Newcastle Vipers 5 - 4 Manchester Phoenix

A second visit to Tyneside in the space of two weeks saw Manchester Phoenix forward Bruce Mulherin bag a 'Gordie Howe' hat-trick by way of an assist, a goal and a fight, but it wasn't enough to inspire the Phoenix on to victory.

An early penalty on Mulherin proved the springboard for Phoenix in Newcastle as he returned to the fray to assist Luke Fulghum in creating the sixth minute opener for the leagues leading scorer David-Alexandre Beauregard to fire the visitors ahead. Vipers then killed a penalty on Rob Rankin before an explosive sixty seconds saw three goals scored. First Vipers David Longstaff equalised at 12:36 before Ed Courtenay put the home side ahead 29 seconds later. Stunned by the fightback, phoenix answered in kind taking just 16 seconds for Luke Fulghum to restore parity assisted by Beauregard and Tony Hand. Just before the first interval, Rankin and Mulherin clashed with both receiving 5-minute major penalties for Fighting.

The middle session saw the Vipers catch the Phoenix cold as Hutchins and Wilson set up Courtenay for his second of the game and the home sides second lead with less than thirty seconds having elapsed. Things got worse for the Phoenix in the 25th minute as Newcastle extended their lead shorthanded as Hutchins tallied with Longstaff in the penalty box and the Vipers, who had enjoyed more of the play, gave themselves a three-goal margin in the 38th minute as Longstaff fired home his second of the game. A stunned Phoenix gathered their senses and reduced the arrears just before the second interval with Bruce Mulherin completing approach work from Alex Dunn and Lucas Burnett.

Phoenix came out in determined fashion for the third period and pulled to within a single marker of the Vipers in the 49th minute as a sweeping length of the rink move started by goalie Stephen Murphy ended with Mulherin netting his second of the game. But try as they could, Phoenix were unable to find another way past Verner in the Vipers goal to force an equaliser to take the game into sudden death overtime.

Phoenix player/coach Tony Hand reflected, "Obviously, I'm a little disappointed with the result tonight. We battled hard and fought back well, but credit Newcastle, they took their chances and we gave ourselves just a little too much to do late in the game."

Phoenix are at home in the Silver Blades Ice Dome in Altrincham on Sunday when they take on the Coventry Blaze in a 5.30pm face-off.

Bruce Mulerin

Mulherin: 'Gordie Howe' Hat-trick

Sign up for the Phoenix Newsletter

Join our 200 Club

Manchester Phoenix Community Sports Foundation