Honours even in War of the Roses 1st leg

Saturday, 6th September 2014

Sheffield Steelers 3 Manchester Phoenix 3.

Phoenix Scorers: James Archer x 2, Robin Kovar

The Phoenix Faithful travelled in numbers across the hills for their first glimpse of this year’s team in the first leg of the annual pre-season match-up against bitter rivals Sheffield Steeldogs.

New netminder Declan Ryan was given the start by coach Hand, who did not ice, preferring to have a good look at his squad from the bench.

Johan “Thor” Burlin instantly became a hero in the first incident of note when he sent Ashley Calvert flying with his first hit in British hockey. Two minutes later we had probably the most predictable occurrence in the game... Andre Payette made his way to his favourite spot in the rink, the penalty box. An altercation with Jacob Heron resulted in the Phoenix man going for 2 minutes for slashing and Andre getting a similar call. The first 10 minutes of the contest were pretty even with both goaltenders pulling off good saves. With 8.40 left in the period, Phoenix almost took the lead as Frankie Bakrlik danced through to force a good save from Sedlar. The period ended 0-0 with Phoenix just shading it with a 10-7 shot count in their favour.

Into the second and the first incident of note again involved Andre Payette. For some obscure reason he paid his usual attention to James Archer, who was having none of it, and the Steeldogs’ player coach went to the box on a 2 minute interference call and a further 10 minutes for incitement. Phoenix did have the puck in the net soon after but the goal was washed out for man in the crease.  Phoenix were dominating at this stage but the very dangerous Legue and Korhon were causing some anxious moments with decent break away chances but Declan Ryan stood up to the pressure to keep his goal intact. The large Phoenix following went mad with delight on 38.45 when Phoenix took the lead on the power play. A delightful pass from Shaun Thompson found James Archer and the latter tapped the puck home.  No further action in the period and Phoenix went for their second cup of tea with a 1-0 lead and would start the third with a long powerplay after Haywood was called on a roughing penalty.

Phoenix were caught sleeping right at the start of the second when they coughed up possession from the face off and Lloyd Gibson took full advantage to equalise for the Steeldogs. 49 seconds later another mental lapse allowed Jeff Legue to score with a crisp shot. 2-1 to the home side and they had all the momentum. Phoenix found the best possible answer just 60 seconds later with an equaliser. James Archer was in the right place at the right time to bundle the puck home with assists going to Michal Psurny and Shaun Thompson. Phoenix were tiring but were given an incentive on 43.51 when Ashley Calvert was given a match penalty for spearing after an altercation with Michal Psurny, who was given a two minutes for a slash. A five minute major power play was just what the doctor ordered and Phoenix took the lead on 47 minutes when Robin Kovar scored, assisted by James Archer and Shaun Thompson. The Dogs tied the game up with a power play goal on 57.20. Declan Ryan came out front to retrieve a rebound and the puck squirmed away from him, unfortunately straight to Steve Duncombe in front of goal and he made no mistake for 3-3. That was it and a pulsating game ended even with all to play for in the second leg on Sunday evening.

A happy Coach Hand had this to say after the game:

“I am pleased with the result and the way the boys played tonight. Steeldogs have a month ahead of us in preparation but I thought we competed well and deserved the result. We played well and time and training will sort out the one or two errors we made.”

The second leg will be played on Sunday 7th September with the usual face off at 1730. One not to be missed.