Quarterfinal tie delicately poised as Phantoms fight back to tie with Phoenix

Saturday, 3rd April 2010

Peterborough Phantoms 3 – 3 Manchester Phoenix
(EPL Playoff Quarterfinal First Leg)

Manchester Phoenix will go into Sundays’ second leg of this playoff quarterfinal as slight favourites having earned a hard-fought tie in Peterborough on Saturday night. In a game that they had the better of the play throughout, they recovered from a disastrous start to take the lead, only to pegged back in the dying minutes.

A full-blooded playoff encounter though saw no shortage of excitement, incident and even controversy as Phoenix lost Swedish defenceman Andre Mattsson on a Match penalty that rules him out of Sundays’ home leg at the Altrincham Ice Dome.

A disastrous start by the Phoenix and goalie Steve Fone handed the home side the opening goal with only twenty seconds on the clock – Fone left his crease after a Bowie giveaway and the puck ended up with James Morgan who could hardly believe his good fortune before sliding the puck home. Phoenix recovered and on their second powerplay opportunity in the 12th minute, with Miller off for High sticks, they drew level as Tony Hand fed Jaacko Hagelberg and the Finn equalised in style. Peteborough were stunned and when Carlon also drew a High-Sticking minor shortly afterwards, it was leading scorer Adam Walker who fired the Phoenix in front on assists from Stephen Wallace and Hagelberg. Having recovered and deservedly gone ahead, Phoenix were then struck a hammer blow as referee Steve Wardell dismissed Andre Mattsson on a 5+Match penalty for Elbows, a decision that mystified the large travelling support. And when Knight scythed down Walker moments later, with no penalty given on the Phantoms player, the travelling Phoenix fans were even more incensed.

The second session saw Phoenix re-jig their line combinations with Hagelberg dropping back to play on defence in the enforced absence of Andre Mattsson. Peterborough continued to play a physical game, but with a vociferous travelling support right behind them Phoenix didn’t buckle under the pressure from the home side, if anything they grew in confidence as they controlled more of the play. A big melee in the Phantoms goal crease saw Wallace and Miller collide heavily with Stephen Wall in the home goal and the ‘keeper needed attention before returning to the action after he was driven into the goalframe and appeared winded. No further goals were added and the Phoenix retained their slender lead after forty minutes.

Phoenix turned the screw in the final period, despite having had to re-organise and they increased their lead inside 47 seconds as player coach Tony Hand showed why he is the greatest ever British –born player with a trademark finish on assists from Walker and Hagelberg. But the home side returned the score to just a one goal margin a minute later as Carlon beat Fone. The game was still being played at a high level of intensity and Phoenix began to dominate the play, raining shots on the home goal throughout the session without puncturing the defence of Wall in the Phantoms goal. Fone had become almost a spectator as the game entered the final five minutes and James Ferrara beat him in the 57th minute to tie the game at 3-3. Phoenix had outshot their hosts 22 to 4 in the final period, but will return to Manchester relatively happy about taking a tie from the away leg.

Phoenix coach Tony Hand noted, “I couldn’t ask any more of the guys this evening, it was an excellent showing under difficult conditions. We lost Matty and had to kill a five-minute penalty as well as other penalties, and still managed to outshoot them comfortably throughout the game. By rights, we should be well ahead, but that’s playoff hockey and we’ll have to play another solid game at home tomorrow. As long as we put the same level of commitment and intensity in, we should be fine.”

Jaakko Hagelburg

Phoenix Man of the Match: Jaakko Hagelberg

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