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Phoenix aim for double Cup glory

Thursday, 26th February 2009

Manchester Phoenix 5 - 4 Newcastle Vipers

Manchester Phoenix will contest two Cup Finals this season after having already qualified for the final of the Challenge Cup, they saw off a valiant effort by the Newcastle Vipers to progress through to the final Knockout Cup courtesy of a 9-5 aggregate victory.

Newcastle arrived in Manchester trailing 1-4 from the first leg and survived a disallowed goal for Alex Dunn with less than ninety seconds played. Andrew Verner in the Vipers goal then denied Brett Clouthier and Luke Fulghum saw his effort on the rebound hit the crossbar. However, it wasn't long before the Phoenix opened their account as Nathan Ward converted assists from Lucas Burnett and Josh Garbutt in just the fourth minute. The Vipers battled back in their usual gritty and sometimes physical style and levelled the game in the 17th minute, Mark Gouett scoring the first of his personal brace of goals on the night.

The visitors stole into the lead in the 28th minute, captain David Longstaff scoring seconds after Andre Payette had exited the Vipers penalty box. Three minutes, and with Phoenix on another powerplay opportunity, the score on the night was again tied up as Burnett and Ward combined to set up Alex Dunn for a crunching shot. The Vipers were putting themselves about and inevitably, tempers began to fray and the 39th minute saw Kyle Bruce and Vipers Chris McAllister exchange punches, both drawing five-minute Fighter major penalties.

Phoenix regained the lead just 23 seconds into the final period as David-Alexandre Beauregard chipped the go-ahead goal over the sprawling body of Verner in the Vipers goal. And the home side effectively killed off the tie a minute later as Alex Dunn fed Brett Clouthier for number four, a goal thar saw Verner replaced by Richie Lawson in the visitors goal. Straight from the re-start, the Vipers drew back to within a goal as Gouett fired home his second from long range. Tempers flared again in the 47th minute with Brett Clouthier and Andre Payette having a minor skirmish. With time running out, Newcastle again tied things up on the night as Likit Andersson squeezed a shot through the pads of Stephen Murphy and in an audacious move from the restart, Vipers pulled their goalie for the extra skater with almost three minutes to play. Incredibly, Phoenix twice, through efforts by Lucas Burnett and Kyle Bruce, hit the goalposts with shots on the unguarded net, but they were third time lucky as Bruce chased the puck down to beat a defenceman and tap home the game-winner on the night.

Phoenix captain Kenton Smith remarked, "They put up a strong effort despite trailing by three goals from the first leg and possibly, we took them a little lightly early on. They made us work all the way, and being a big, strong, physical side, we knew there'd be a few battles to be won in the process. It's great though for our club, the players, supporters and everyone involved that we've made through to two Cup Finals, the key now is to go on and lift some silverware."

Phoenix have just one game this coming weekend when the Coventry Blaze are the visitors to the Altrincham ice Dome on Saturday evening with face-off at 6.30pm.

Alex Dunn

Alex Dunn earned the Phoenix MVP Award


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