Swindon Wildcats 1 - Manchester Phoenix 2

Saturday, 7th April 2012

Manchester Phoenix scorers: Slava Koulikov, Stephen Wallace

J Davidson made a return to Wiltshire in the play off quarter finals to face the in-form Swindon Wildcats. Phoenix welcomed back Ladislav Harabin but were without Tony Hand, who was coaching on the bench.

Swindon started the stronger but once Phoenix got rid of their bus legs, they looked more likely to score. Tom Murdy had to be sharp to keep out the Phoenix attack on a powerplay from 4.15 as Nicky Watt sat out a minor for holding. Swindon came back strong and hit the pipes in the ninth minute. Phoenix had to concentrate when Ciaran Long went to the box on a roughing call that only referee Boardman saw, timed at 16.04. A minute after killing the penalty, Phoenix took the lead with a sweet goal from Slava Koulikov, assisted by James Neil and Juraj Faith. A good period for Phoenix, outshot by the home side 13-10, but into the first break with a 1-0 lead.

Phoenix came out much the better side but were shaken by a dreadful hit on Harabin by Ryan Aldridge, who was only given a 2 minute roughing call. Swindon survived the penalty but Phoenix doubled their lead on 29.03 with a fine goal by Stephen Wallace, assisted by Martin Cingel. Tom Murdy then made two great saves to keep Swindon in the tie. Then controversy as Tom Duggan was called for a high stick for the second time when visiting Swindon. Nick Watt took an age to find some blood and Tom was gone for the game. Phoenix battled manfully on the major penalty and held out until 31 seconds left when Cesky prodded the puck home for 2-1, assisted by Pinc and Melichar. End to end stuff to finish the second period at 2-1 to Phoenix.

The third period was a typical play off hockey game with both sides making chances. Swindon were playing a fast breaking game and the Phoenix defence worked overtime to cut out the marauding Swindon forwards. Stephen Fone in the Phoenix goal had an outstanding period and a double save midway through the period had the Phoenix fans up on their feet. With just over 4 minutes left, Fone made the save of the night from Pinc who wheeled away celebrating only to see Fone with the puck. Phoenix called a time out to disrupt the Swindon flow and held out for a great win and a narrow 2-1 lead to take home to the Dome tomorrow night.

Man of the match for Phoenix was a no-brainer with Stephen Fone saving 45 of 46 shots.