Last gasp Blaze deny Phoenix victory

Saturday, 24th January 2009

Coventry Blaze 7 - 6 Manchester Phoenix (after overtime)

A game that twice saw Phoenix lead by a three-goal margin in Skydome finally went the way of the Coventry Blaze in a heart-breaking finale that saw three goals scored in a 68-second spell including the overtime winner.

Phoenix began brightly against the defending league champions and by the midway point of the first period, their special teams had worked well enough to establish a two goal lead over the Blaze. In the sixth minute, with Danny Stewart off for High-Sticking, David-Alexandre Beauregard again showed why he leads the league in goalscoring to fire the visitors ahead. Coventry transgressed the rules again with Leigh Jamieson guilty of Tripping and this time it was Luke Fulghum taking a pass from Tony Hand in the ninth minute to double the advantage. Shortly after the midway mark of the opening period, the home side reduced the arrears as Carlyle Lewis tallied.

Phoenix continued to demonstrate that this weeks training had been to good use two goals in a 30-second spell in the 27th minute saw them stretch to a 4-1 lead. Player coach Tony Hand bagged his teams’ third powerplay marker with Erik Hjalmarsson in the penalty box for Charging and straight from the restart, Phoenix stunned the home fans as Lucas Burnett finished a pass from Brett Clouthier. Coventry though showed the depth of their resolve by blasting back with their own brace in less than a minute just before the half-hour mark. Sylvain Deschatelets punished a Kenton Smith penalty and 38 seconds later, Russ Cowley made it 3-4 and Skydome was buzzing as both sets of supporters revelled in the run ‘n gun attacking from both teams. And the second period scoring wasn’t finished as the 37th minute again saw the Phoenix gain a two-goal spread as Nathan Ward fed Alex Dunn for 5-3 at the second interval.

Expecting a third period surge from the home side, Phoenix got their retaliation in first as the 47th minute saw an end-to-end move started by netminder Stephen Murphy and involving Luke Fulghum, finished by Tony Hand for his second goal of the game. Three minutes later and Adam Calder pulled another goal back for the Blaze to set up a nail-biting final ten minutes as the home side began to throw everything at the Phoenix defence. Phoenix defended valiantly, but the mounting pressure eventually tolled as once again, there were two goals in less than a minute, the last minute of regulation time and both went the way of the Blaze. Hjalmarsson made it a one-goal game with less than thirty seconds to play and Phoenix were robbed of a memorable victory as Deschatelets pulled the Blaze level with just seven seconds to play to force sudden death overtime.

And Phoenix hearts were broken as Coventry took just 45 seconds of the extra session for Danny Stewart to score the game-winning goal to take the extra point, but Phoenix earn a valuable point ahead of Sunday’s home clash in Altrincham with the Cardiff Devils.

Two-goal Tony Hand reflected afterwards saying, “Before the game if I’d been offered a point, I’d probably have taken it as this is a tough place to come. We played so well tonight, the guys gave everything and to lose two goals in the final minute when they’ve pulled the goalie is very disappointing. Once again, we’ve shown we can compete with one of the strongest teams in the league, so we’ll re-group and see how Sunday against Cardiff goes.”

Tony Hand

Phoenix Man of the Match: Tony Hand

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