Phoenix scorers: Campbell x 2, Flaten, McKinney and Psurny
J Davidson sponsored Manchester Phoenix got their extensive Christmas schedule off to a great start with a hard worked win over rivals Sheffield Steeldogs.
Debutants Derek Campbell and Bari McKenzie iced for Phoenix with Stephen Fone back between the pipes.
Phoenix started strongly and peppered netminder James Flavell, who only arrived just before face off, with shot after shot and got the breakthrough on 7.29. With Phoenix a man down due to a too many men call, the puck broke to Tony Hand skating into the offensive zone. He found Derek Campbell on the left with an inch perfect pass for the new boy to tap the puck into the empty net. Joachim Flaten doubled the lead four minutes later when he shot the puck into the net off Flavell’s pads. Tom Duggan and Luke Boothroyd picked up assists on the goal. The home side was flying and made it 3-0 with an Andy McKinney goal on 17.19 with another breakout goal. Assists on this one went to Derek Campbell and James Archer.
Sheffield looked shell shocked but did pull a goal back in the final minute of the period through Craig Elliot. End of the first period, 3-1 to Phoenix and a shot count of 23-10 backing up their dominance.
Steeldogs upped their game in the second and started to worry the Phoenix defence and made it a one goal game on 21.35 as ex Phoenix favourite Ben Morgan was in the right spot to sweep the puck home after good work by Greg Wood and Andy Hirst. Phoenix were rocked for a time and the Dogs were finding gaps in the Phoenix rearguard. The inevitable confrontation between Andre Payette and Derek Campbell happened with six minutes of the period gone. Payette was trying to goad James Archer into a fight when Campbell got involved by pushing the Sheffield coach aside. A bit of a hugfest with a couple of punches ensued and both teams picked up 4 minute fighting penalties with Campbell awarded the extra two minutes for instigating the fight. There was no further scoring but the shot count of 13-12 in Phoenix’s favour showed the improvement in the Dogs’ game in the second.
Sheffield were rewarded early in the third period with a superb solo effort from Pavel Gomeniuk, another ex Phoenix stalwart. He picked the puck up in his own half and went on a mazy run, ending with a crisp shot that beat Stephen Fone. The teams swapped penalties with just less than 10 minutes left as the visitors looked more and more like getting something from the game. Their hopes were shattered on 55.20 with Phoenix’s second short-handed goal of the evening. James Archer’s penalty had only 5 seconds left when James Neil cleared the zone to Tony Hand. The player coach immediately fed Michal Psurny who smashed an unstoppable shot past Flavell for the go-ahead goal. Phoenix man of the match Campbell sealed the win in the last minute after superb stick work from Richard Bentham found the striker, who made no mistake. Final score 5-3 to Phoenix.
Coach Hand commented after the game: “We made a great start but looked rusty in the second period. All credit to the guys for sticking to their task and getting the win. I was pleased with the two new boys and they will be a boost to the squad as we head into a hectic fixture period.”