Captain Kenton the hero as Phoenix finally beat the Blaze

Saturday, 7th February 2009

Manchester Phoenix 4 - 3 Coventry Blaze (after overtime)

A Man of the Match performance from captain Kenton Smith was crowned with the game-winning goal in overtime as the Manchester Phoenix finally gained a victory over the Coventry Blaze.

Every game between the two sides so far this season has been a one-goal affair and Saturday night in Altrincham was no different as two well-matched teams fought out another exciting battle of wills. A rip-roaring opening saw almost five minutes of end-to-end attacking play before the first stoppage. Phoenix opened the scoring in the ninth minute as Brett Clouthier fed Lucas Burnett and when Perras in the Blaze goal failed to hold the shot, Adam Walker pounced to net the rebound. Phoenix extended their lead with a 14th minute powerplay marker as Tony Hand fed Kenton Smith on the blue line and his full-blooded slapshot was deflected past Perras by the leagues leading scorer David-Alexandre Beauregard.

Coventry came out determined to redress matters in the second period and Adam Calder reduced the arrears in the 25th minute with a shot that squeezed past Stephen Murphy with the help of the goalframe. With both sides playing at breakneck pace, it was the home side who struck to re-establish a two-goal lead right on the thirty-minute mark. Nathan Ward worked the opening and when he drove the puck to the net, Kyle Bruce was perfectly positioned to re-direct it pass a floundering Perras. Coventry edged the possession and the shots on goal in the second session, but it was Phoenix who took the two-goal lead to the second interval.

The defending league champions again lifted their game in the third period pinning the Phoenix in their own end in the early stages before a was it, wasn’t it powerplay goal in the 47th minute. A right wing shot from Adam Calder seemed to hit the Phoenix net, but referee Moray Hanson ruled otherwise. Coventry protested and after consulting linesman Paul Staniforth, the referee reversed his decision in favour of the Blaze. The tight nature of Phoenix vs Blaze games was now apparent and Coventry almost inevitably drew level in the 57th minute as Weaver and Deschatelets carved the opening for Dan Carlson to score from close range. Sudden death overtime was looming, and fortune was to favour the Phoenix in the extra period as Tony Hand weaved his neutral ice magic before finding Kenton Smith with an inch perfect pass and he arrowed the game-winning goal low to the glove side of Perras in the Blaze goal.

Phoenix player coach Tony Hand summed up the game saying, “We always knew that Coventry would give us a hard game and even with the two-goal lead they kept pegging us back. But, the guys were superb tonight, we stayed calm and focussed and I thought we were fully deserving of the game winner in overtime. This victory is a great boost for us as we go into a couple of days of rest before we begin the preparation for next weekend and two big cup ties for the club and our supporters.”

Phoenix travel to the Hull Stingrays on Saturday taking a 4-0 lead into the second leg of their Knockout Cup tie before hosting the Basingstoke Bison on Sunday in the second leg of the Challenge Cup semi-final tie. Phoenix will take a 5-2 lead into the game and anything other than a four-goal loss to the Bison will see Phoenix reach their first ever Cup Final, where they will face the Belfast Giants.

Kenton Smith

Phoenix Man of the Match: Kenton Smith

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