Third period rumpus as Phoenix ease to victory

Saturday, 13th March 2010

Manchester Phoenix 4 - 1 Sheffield Scimitars

Cruising to victory after forty minutes with a four goal lead, Manchester Phoenix had to fight, literally, a third period challenge to their supremacy from the Sheffield Scimitars. A game that had no shortage of fair, physical play saw tempers fray in the third period as first Tony Hand, Andre Payette and Jaakko Hagelberg all became involved in alternations.

Phoenix were again without the injured Stephen Wallace and Ed Courtenay still in North America, but they belied a shortage of numbers with a solid performance that saw them post two goals in each of the first two sessions before the third period fireworks entertained the crowd. Phoenix opened the scoring in the fifth minute as Tony Hand laid a perfect pass into the path of Jaakko Hagelberg and the Finn crashed the puck past Ben Bowns in the Scimitars goal. Phoenix were well on top and struck a killer second goal in the 14th minute with Hagelberg in the penalty box as a long pass from defence by Hand found Adam Walker in oceans of space and the Scot consummately beat Bowns for two-nil.

The second period again saw the home side controlling the game, but it wasn't until the half-hour mark had been passed that they emphasises their superiority with two goals in a 52-second spell. Hagelberg grabbed his second goal of the game, again assisted by Hand, on a powerplay and hardly had the crowd settled back into their seats that Robert Lachowicz superbly dispatched a Joe Graham pass for his 26th goal of the season.

The second interval saw Scimitars coach Jon Rowbotham demand a more spirited showing from his team and they responded with an increase in the physical contact that ultimately saw tempers fray for a crazy three minutes. First Tony Hand and Scimitars Aaron Strawson traded punches with the veteran Scot surprising the younger man with after he reacted to the initial slash from Strawson with a solid Crosscheck. Andre Payette was keen to impose his presence on the visitors and after talking Ben Wilson into dropping his gloves, the Phoenix hitman meted out his own form of punishment. Seconds later and Hagelberg joined Hand and Payette in the penalty box after a clash with Lee Haywood saw both teams with three men serving time. The game calmed down and the Scimitars broke the shutout claims of Steve Fone in the 55th minute, Simon Butterworth on the mark.

Phoenix player coach Tony Hand noted, "I thought we were always in control of a game in which both teams competed well. We played some good hockey and scored some nice goals and I thought if we'd needed to, we could have scored a couple more. The third period saw Sheffield trying to restore some pride and there was nothing wrong with that, the crowd seemed to enjoy the physical aspect and there was nothing nasty about it."

"We've said all year that Sheffield work hard every shift and tonight was no exception. We've had good success against them, but we'll go to their place next Saturday and I fully expect another full-blooded and hard-working game."

Phoenix forward Andre Payette added, "The big thing for us right now is we've made it three wins on the bounce and that's helping confidence in the room. We need to keep it going now right to the end of the season and if we do, we'll be there or thereabouts in the playoffs. We haven't given up on winning some silverware this season and if we can keep this run going, who knows what might happen."