Phoenix open up gap on depleted Devils

Sunday, 25th January 2009

Manchester Phoenix 2 – 0 Cardiff Devils

Phoenix took on an injury depleted Cardiff Devils on Sunday night knowing that a victory would open up a four-point gap over the Welsh outfit, and the shutout victory saw them achieve the target and take three points from the weekend.

With the Devils missing three players including the influential Jay Latulippe (suspended) and Jason Silverthorn (injured), Phoenix stayed focussed on the job in hand and didn’t allow themselves to get drawn into any kind of complacency against a weakened opponent. Despite their shorter than usual bench, Cardiff came to play and there was no shortage of physical play and keen bodychecking throughout the sixty minutes. Phoenix opened the scoring in the 13th minute, with the only goal of the first period, as Tony Hand and captain Kenton Smith combined for Luke Fulghum to continue his recent good form in front of goal.

Where Phoenix had enjoyed the better of the scoring chances in the first period, the Devils fought back in terms of possession in the second, but without finding the important finishing touch in front of goal. Phoenix capitalised on this shortcoming by extending their lead in the 26th minute with American defenceman Alex Dunn netting on assists from Fulghum and Josh Garbutt. Cardiff were now chasing the game and this saw an increase in the physical play and both sides incurring penalties. Both sides though failed to take their chances on their respective powerplay opportunities and it was Phoenix who took the two-goal margin into the second break.

The final session saw both sides enjoy excellent scoring chances however both netminders, Stephen Murphy for the Phoenix and Peter Aubry for the Devils were intent on defending their goal – Murphy to earn a shutout and Aubry to give his side a chance to get back into the game. Both made key saves as the skaters stepped up the shots on goal and Aubry made one excellent stop to prevent a rampaging Brett Clouthier from adding to the score late in the period. Cardiff pulled Aubry inside the final minute in one final desperate attempt to break Murphy’s cleansheet, but the Phoenix defence held firm to take the pints without conceding.

A Phoenix spokesperson commented, “We were very pleased with the energy and effort we showed tonight after the tough loss in Coventry. It was important to play well and get a result tonight and I think we did just that. We didn’t and couldn’t afford to take Cardiff lightly as they’re chasing us for fifth place in the league. They came to play and despite their short bench, it made for an entertaining game that the goodly sized crowd seemed to enjoy.”

Phoenix embark upon their Knockout Cup campaign on Thursday with the home leg of the first round tie against the Hull Stingrays in Altrincham with a 7.15pm face-off. Phoenix then play back-to-back games with the Nottingham Panthers next weekend, travelling to the East Midlands on Saturday for a 7.00pm face-off in the National Ice Centre before the return game on Sunday in Altrincham with the usual 5.30pm start time.

Stephen Murphy

Stephen Murphy posted his second shut-out of the season

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