Phoenix show bouncebackability factor

Sunday, 22nd November 2009

Manchester Phoenix 3 – 1 Milton Keynes Lightning

Manchester Phoenix showed great determination on Sunday night, bouncing back from Saturdays’ disappointing loss to the Romford Raiders by beating the Milton Keynes Lighting in a terrific battle between the EPL’s top two teams.

Phoenix had woefully underperformed on Saturday giving up five powerplay goals in an 8-3 loss to the Raiders in Essex, but pitted against a even hungrier and more dangerous Lightning side, they led throughout Sunday’s game before sealing victory with a last minute empty-net goal.

With the Lightning fresh off a 7-1 thrashing of the Guildford Flames, Phoenix knew they were in for a tough battle and so it proved. A game played at breakneck pace throughout saw lots of goalmouth action, end to end play, big hits, a third period scrap and all played in a white-hot, but enjoyable atmosphere.

Phoenix struck the all-important first goal in the eighth minute with Robert Lachowicz netting from close range after Jaakko Hagelberg and Luke Boothroyd had worked the puck deep into the Lightning defensive zone with the home side on the powerplay. Phoenix failed to make the most of two further powerplays in the opening session that ended with Ed Courtenay assessed a Slashing penalty as the hooter sounded.

A scoreless second session saw the end to end play continue and if anything the physical aspect of the game increased with a number of clashes between players that threatened to boil over. Both sides had powerplay opportunities, but their respective defences were playing well and both goalies, Steve Fone and Barry Hollyhead were in sparkling form as they turned away 14 shots apiece in the period. Courtenay, Boothroyd and player-coach Tony Hand all missed chances to increase the home sides lead.

Phoenix increased their lead just under seven minutes into the final period as Courtenay and Greg Wood worked the puck to the net and Finnish forward Hagelberg was able to squeeze it past Hollyhead. The tension and physical edge in the game finally peaked in the 51st minute as Iain Bowie and MacPherson of the Lightning fought, both sitting double minors for their troubles. Adam Walker was desperately unlucky to see a rising shot beat Hollyhead, but cannon back into play off the inside of the goal post before Milton Keynes struck with captain Adam Carr exiting the penalty box to make it a 2-1 game with just over four minutes to play. Milton Keynes pulled Hollyhead inside the final minute for the extra skater and after three attempts on the empty net that missed the target, Ed Courtenay secured the victory with just five seconds to play.

Phoenix coach Tony Hand noted, “After a very disappointing performance in Romford on Saturday, it was important that we improved dramatically in order to get a result against Milton Keynes. Where we were not very good on Saturday, we were very good tonight. We defended well tonight, probably our best penalty killing of the season so far and overall, every single player showed up, played his part and I thought that whilst MK gave us a great game, we were the better side and deserved the points.”
Match Photo 22/11/2009: Bowie Fights McPherson

Bowie Fights McPherson

Match Photo 22/11/2009: Lachowicz gets Phoenix's first

Lachowicz gets Phoenix's first

Match Photo 22/11/2009: MOM Steve Fone saves one of many shots

Man of the Match: Steve Fone saves one of many shots

Match Photo 22/11/2009: Payette wants Zatopek

Payette wants Zatopek

Match Photo 22/11/2009: The coaches face up to each other

The coaches face up to each other