It’s the big weekend as Phoenix head to Coventry

Monday, 31st March 2014

J Davidson sponsored Manchester Phoenix head to Coventry to defend their EPL Play off title this weekend. After a tight and exciting win over the Bracknell Bees, Phoenix will meet Swindon Wildcats in the first semi final at 1pm on Saturday at the Skydome in Coventry.

Swindon are in fine form and are on a good winning streak. They knocked out Milton Keynes Lightning in the quarter finals with a very late penalty shot goal and are set to enjoy their trip to the end of season bonanza.

Phoenix have a good record against the Wildcats this season with 4-0 and 4-2 away wins and 3-2, 6-3 and 4-3 wins at the Ice Dome. The only loss was a 2-0 result in Swindon near the end of the season.

However play off hockey is a different kettle of fish and a one-off game. Winner takes all usually means the form book is thrown away.

Swindon have a fine balanced side, backstopped by the league’s top of the averages netminder, Stevie Lyle. The defensive corps in front of him consists of Brits Alex Symonds, Lee Richardson, Sam Godfrey, Shane Moore and Steve Whitfield and 2 imports in Tomas Fojtik and Aku Pekkarinen. Pekkarinen has been one of the most consistent defenders in the league this season and has 44 points to his name.

Up-front they have a formidable line up with Aaron Nell, returning from the Sheffield Steelers, Jonas Hoog and Jan Kostal proving to be a real threat to every team. Nell has hit 32 goals in 28 games since his return, Kostal 27 from 34 and Hoog 26 from 50. Add Henri Sandvik with 29 goals and the feistiness of Ryan Watt and they are a match for any side.

Coach Hand is well aware of their threat and has often said there are no easy games in this league any more. A play off semi final is no exception and Phoenix will need to bring their 'A' game on Saturday. They will be cheered on by the 550 Phoenix fans making the trip to Warwickshire to enjoy the weekend hockey-fest.

The other semi final will see Basingstoke Bison and Guildford Flames on Saturday evening with the two winners meeting on Sunday afternoon.