Phoenix edged out in cup thriller

Thursday, 23rd February 2012

Guildford Flames 3 - Manchester Phoenix 2

Phoenix scorers: Slava Koulikov and Ryan Johnson

J Davidson sponsored Manchester Phoenix suffered cup heartache in Guildford on Wednesday night as the home side came from behind to snatch a final spot from Phoenix’s grasp.

Both teams lined up as per the first leg with Kvetan and Huppe missing for the home side and Phoenix still without Tony Hand and Stephen Wallace.

The first period ended all-square and an 11-10 shot count told the story of an even period with Flames just edging the play.

Ben Campbell put the home side ahead on 22.08 with a goal assisted by Stuart Potts but Phoenix hit back hard with two goals in two minutes. Slava Koulikov hit the first just 56 seconds after Guildford’s goal. Assists went to Martin Cingel and Juraj Faith. The Phoenix faithful leapt to their feet two minutes later as an unassisted Ryan Johnson goal put their favourites ahead for the first time in the two games. Guildford came back into the tie on 36.17 when David Longstaff hit the equaliser, assisted by Matt Towe and Nathan Rempel. Once again the shot count of 12-11 showed what a close encounter the tie has been.

A great end to end third period ensued as both teams gave it their all in the quest to reach the final and a meeting with the Sheffield Steeldogs. The game and the tie was decided with just over eight minutes left when defenceman David Savage scored on the powerplay to send the home side through to the final. Phoenix threw everything at the Flames defence in the final minutes but another cruel penalty, on James Neil, with 90 seconds left allowed Guildford to close ranks and see out the game.

A fantastic effort by Phoenix, who matched the league leaders in every department, only to suffer that late heartbreak.

Phoenix will re-group and prepare for a double header weekend against Bracknell Bees as they strive to stay in contention at the top of the league table.

The home game is on Sunday with the usual 17.30 face off.