Lightning struck as Phoenix go top of the table

Monday, 9th November 2009

Milton Keynes Lightning 2 – 3 Manchester Phoenix

Phoenix fans celebrated with chants of “We are Number One” at the final hooter as their heroes leapfrogged Milton Keynes to go top of the English Premier League following a thrilling odd goal in five victory.

Despite a big local firework display, a good crowd turned up in the MK Thunderdome including a noisy contingent from Manchester and they were treated to a first period played at a frantic pace as both teams tried to impose them selves on their opponents. Phoenix were called for an early High Stick penalty on Tony Hand, but they used the extra space of the huge MK ice pad to good effect as Ed Courtenay released Adam Walker through the neutral zone and the Scot fought off two Lightning defenceman before backhanding past Barry Hollyhead with less than two minutes played. The home side hit back and equalised on a powerplay with Walker penalised, Towalksi netting from close range in the ninth minute. The pace of the period was very quick and there was no shortage of big hits as MK appeared to target Jaakko Hagelberg in particular. Lightning went two men short as Christie and Zatopek were both called for Hooking on Walker and on the two-man powerplay, Phoenix regained the lead – Courtenay and Hand the architects for Andre Mattsson to blast home his second goal of the weekend from the right circle in the 15th minute.

The quick pace of the first period continued unabated into the second with end to end play and both goaltenders needing to keep alert. The strong physical play also continued and there were signs that tempers might fray as Greg Wood and Zatopek exchanged a few harsh words after one Phoenix attack broke down. Milton Keynes put some strong pressure on the Phoenix goal and were unlucky as one shot rebounded to safety off the foot of the goalpost. Eventually, tempers did peak as Joe Graham and Grant MacPherson dropped the gloves for a short altercation in the 34th minute, both receiving double minors for their troubles.

Milton Keynes started strongly in the third period and Steve Fone produced a fine glove save to deny Smulter as the home side sought the equaliser. With Christie in the penalty box, Hollyhead in the home goal denied Andre Mattsson with a glove save as the goalies continued their good form. With the Lightning pressing forward, Phoenix struck with deadly effect to extend their lead in the 50th minute – Greg Wood making the initial rush and when Hollyhead failed to hold his shot, Robert Lachowicz was there to convert the rebound. Milton Keynes were forced to over commit and Phoenix were defending well until Tony Hand was called for Hooking and on the resulting powerplay, Zatopek blasted home a one-timer to make it a one-goal game. Joe Graham saw a blast from the blue line fly just over the Lightning crossbar and Phoenix had to work hard to kill a bench penalty to seal the victory that saw them go top of the EPL table for the first time this season.

Phoenix player coach Tony Hand commented, “We knew this would be a tough game as Milton Keynes are a good team and so it proved. It was fast, it was physical and we had to match them every inch of the way. We played well defensively tonight, and we took our chances – all in all, this was probably our best sixty minutes of the season and the reward is to go top of the table. The atmosphere created by both sets of supporters was excellent and I think all the players got a lift from it, it wa sa great game to play in, it had to be a great game to watch.”

Robert Lachowicz

Robert Lachowicz scored the game-winning third goal for Phoenix

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