Manchester Phoenix will open up the 2013-14 season with back-to-back challenge games against bitter rivals Sheffield Steeldogs for the Rose Bowl.
The first game is on Saturday 7th September at Ice Sheffield, 19.30hrs face off, with the return leg back at the Altrincham Dome on Sunday 8th with a 17.30hrs start.
The Phoenix Faithful turned up in numbers again on Thursday night for the annual Meet the Players evening and all showed their appreciation to the players as they were introduced.
The pre-season challenge games are important to coaches as they put all they have practised into a game situation.
Sheffield have made few changes to their squad from last season and they will again be a tough, aggressive team to play this year.
On the import side, Andre is of course back in the colours, as is top sniper Lubomir Korhon and net minder Dalibor Sedlar. A new addition to the Dogs is experienced forward Greg Chambers. Toronto-born Greg has been on these shores since 2005 and iced in the Elite League for Basingstoke and Coventry and in the EPL for Guildford and Basingstoke.
With over 420 games under his belt, Greg has amassed 172 goals and 344 assists and will definitely be one to watch in the Dogs’ lineup.
On the physical side, Andre is not getting any younger so he has brought in a young enforcer, Callum Pattison, to take some of the burden off the player-coach. It will be interesting to see how the ENIHL forward measures up against some of the more established tough guys in the league.
Looking at Phoenix, a few of the play-off winning team have moved on and Coach Hand has recruited top sniper Frankie Bakrlik from Slough and Czech forward Robin Kovar from the Czech 2nd league. Jack Watkins, Jacob Corson-Heron and Joe Graham have joined the ranks from Dundee Stars, Basingstoke Bison and Peterborough Phantoms to fill the gaps.
Coach Hand had this to say about the upcoming weekend: “Coach Payette has strengthened his side this season and has assembled another tough, hungry side with bags of energy and plenty to prove. He has added one of the most experienced playmakers in Greg Chambers and has certainly sent a message of intent to the league. Steeldogs won this trophy last season and we are desperate to redress the balance for an early season boost, so it promises to be a cracking pre-season derby series.”