Sheffield Steeldogs 5 - Manchester Phoenix 2
Phoenix scorers: Frantisek Bakrlik and James Archer
Sheffield Steeldogs will take a 3 goal advantage into Sunday’s second leg match at the Ice Dome after a competent display against Phoenix.
Steeldogs were without the suspended Lewis Bell and Ben Morgan and Phoenix player-coach Tony Hand decided to watch from the bench to get a look at the team’s shape.
The Dogs made a bright start and pinned Phoenix in their own zone for the first couple of minutes. After that, the visitors found their feet and hit the post twice within a minute. Phoenix found themselves in penalty trouble after 6 minutes when Robin Kovar was sent to the bin for a cross check, closely followed by James Neil for a very harsh tripping call. The home side scored 16 seconds into the 5 on 3 advantage when Hirst managed to squeeze the puck past Steven Fone. Just 28 seconds later, they doubled the lead on the one man advantage when Bebris found the net.
Phoenix pulled a goal back on 11.13 after a good skate down the left wing by Andy McKinney, who found Bakrlik free in the slot to make it 2-1. An even first period ended with the Steeldogs up 2-1.
The home side increased their lead on 23.48 with a neat short-handed goal by Lubomir Korhon. Phoenix then totally dominated the period, keeping the Dogs in their own zone for long periods. Andre Payette’s side were playing their usual tough, niggly game and Phoenix could not find a way past an inspired net minder in Sedlar. The period ended with Sheffield 3-1 up, but pretty relieved to have that two goal advantage.
James Archer gave the large away following some hope with a goal 56 seconds into the final period, assisted by Robin Kovar and Luke Boothroyd. The Dogs were on the ropes at this stage and Steve Duncombe can consider himself lucky to have stayed on the ice after a dreadful slash on Robin Kovar. He was also lucky to keep his head on his shoulders as Robert Schnabel had to be restrained from taking him to task over it. Phoenix understandably tired as the period continued and a tip by Payette from a Duncombe shot, followed by a goal from Pattinson ended the scoring at 5-2 to Sheffield.
Coach Hand said after the game: “It was always going to be a tough night for us out there with the limited ice practice we had. However, credit to Sheffield for taking their chances. We are still in this and will be looking to turn things around in the second leg. There were a lot of positives we can take from the game and work on them.”