Sledge Hockey

Monday, 14th July 2014

Saturday July 12th saw the Cardiff Devils make the journey up to Altrincham for what would turn out to be an epic grudge match!

The previous weekend, the Manchester Phoenix travelled down to Cardiff, full of confidence after a win over the Peterborough Phantoms, but where beaten 5-2 by a physical, disciplined and skilled Devils team. The loss really hurt the Phoenix and just a week later they had the chance, in their eyes, to put that right.

With that loss still hurting and Cardiff full of confidence and momentum... the puck dropped on the first period!

The first few minutes picked up where the previous meeting left off, with Cardiff controlling the game, both teams using their physical qualities, much to the delight of the crowd, and with 4 mins on the clock, Cardiff's Stephen Thomas takes a quick shot, but Phoenix D man Steve Bradley throws his body in front of the shot. Phoenix take momentum from that and start to push forward, with a sweet pass from behind the net from Karl Nicholson to Anthony Booth, but is stopped point blank by the Cardiff net minder! The period ends scoreless, with little in the way of shots, but hits galore, including some great work by Graham "Pain Train" Wilson on the Phoenix blue line.

The second starts with the Phoenix determined to make use of the momentum gained from the tail end of the first, and 18 seconds in a giveaway by Cardiff to Nicholson gives Phoenix a golden opportunity, but the shot is deflected wide by some quick Cardiff defensive play, however before the first minute is over it's 1-0 to the Phoenix! Nicholson banks a breakaway pass to Booth, who collects and makes no mistake! Phoenix control the next several minutes with some great pass and move hockey in the Cardiff zone, with Phoenix pouncing on loose pucks, shots rain down on Cardiff throughout the period, but Cardiff goalie Han O'Connor keeps the puck out!

This causes the physical game to pick up, with both teams hitting hard and giving no quarter. Just before the 10 minute mark, Phoenix's Nicholson and Cardiff's Thomas battle 1 on 1 on a breakaway, with Thomas doing just enough to put Nicholson off, as he shoots high. As the clock ticks down, Cardiff's Russ Willey takes a speculative shot, that somehow sneaks under Phoenix goalie Steve Midghall to make it 1-1, timed at 14:59!

The third starts, with the scores tied, meaning it's a 1 period game! Cardiff obviously boosted by that late goal looked to take the momentum, but how would Phoenix handle that late blow!?!? It took 9 seconds to find out! Booth collects the loose puck off the face off and banks a pass off the boards to Nicholson, who drives wide and then cuts to the middle and unleashes a quick wrister... no mistake, 2-1 Phoenix! Just over a minute later Thomas evades the Phoenix D and shoots, but it rings off the crossbar....much to the home supports delight! The period is evenly contested by both teams and 5 minutes in to the third it's all tied again, as Cardiff's Paul Furber takes aim from the left circle and gets the puck just over Midghall's glove! With another equaliser Cardiff looked to get a stranglehold of the game, however penalty trouble disrupted any momentum and handed Phoenix the advantage, as Tim James went for T-ing at 6:50 and then Thomas for elbows at 7:36, gave Phoenix a short 5 on 3 Powerplay. Some resolute defending by Cardiff kept the Phoenix at bay, with a point blank stop from Booth at 8:25... but it could only postpone the Phoenix for so long. Rob Allen on a 1-0 breakaway made it 3-2 Phoenix on the Powerplay at 8.55.

With just over 6 minutes left, Cardiff threw everything, including the kitchen sink!, at the Phoenix, while the home team kept pushing forward themselves, playing sound defensively, with the crowd watching every hit, shot and save nervously, the seconds slowly ticked down. The Phoenix kept possession and forechecked hard to run the clock down and take the win, 3-2!

Anthony Booth took MVP honours, but several candidates from both teams could have taken it too in a great advertisement for the sport, and looking at the games so far and the current league table, shows how close all the teams are.

The Phoenix have 2 games left in the league, next up is a home game vs. Kingston Kestrels on August 9th at Altrincham, followed by an away game in Peterborough on August 23rd. Can Phoenix keep their home win record going? Get down to the Ice Dome on August 9th, it's Free Admission, to find out!

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