Phoenix with one skate in the final

Wednesday, 4th February 2009

Basingstoke Bison 2 - 5 Manchester Phoenix

Manchester Phoenix travelled home from Hampshire on Wednesday night with one skate in the Challenge Cup final following a very satisfying victory over the Basinstoke Bison in the first leg of the semi-final.

While the Belfast Giants were securing their place in the final with a 4-1 on the night, 5-2 on aggregate win over the Coventry Blaze, Phoenix went South eager to establish a solid platform for the second leg in Altrincham on Sunday 15th, and they got off to a superb start. Adam Walker fired them into a third minute lead assisted by Lucas Burnett and Brett Clouthier and a just over a minute later, the lead was doubled as Josh Garbutt tallied on helpers from Walker and Clouthier. The home side reduced the arrears in the ninth minute as former Coventry forward Corey LeClair beat Stephen Murphy, but the Phoenix were in resolute mood and leading scoring David-Alexandre Beauregard re-established the two-goal margin with a trademark powerplay strike three minutes later. With the home side desperate to stay in touch in the contest, Beauregard was able to punish them with his second of the game in the 18th minute on a delayed penalty.

The second session saw Phoenix make it 5-1 in clinical fashion as with Brent Hughes in the penalty box in the 25th minute, Bruce Mulherin added his sides second powerplay goal of the game. Tempers frayed five minutes later as Jeremy Cornish and Brett Clouthier renewed hostilities and both were assessed five-minute major penalties for Fighting. Having built a commanding lead, Phoenix took their foot off the gas slightly to take the four-goal lead into the second interval.

Basingstoke, with their number one goalie Kevin Reiter injured had Richie Lawson from Newcastle deputising between the pipes and despite having conceded five goals, he was playing well and doing his best to inspire his temporary team-mates. The home side responded and pegged another goal back five minutes into the final period, Hughes the scorer, but the Phoenix were able to shut them out from this point to take a three-goal lead into the second leg in ten days time. The final two minutes saw another dust-up as Alex Dunn clashed with Bison's Trevor Read, both receiving Fighting majors.

Phoenix player coach Tony Hand commented, "We played well tonight, took our chances and established a good lead to take into the second leg. To bring a three-goal margin home with us is very pleasing and we've given ourselves an excellent chance of making it to the final. Basingstoke won't lie down though and we'll need to approach the second leg in a solid professional manner, not get complacent and take anything for granted."

Stephen Murphy

Phoenix Man of the Match: Stephen Murphy

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