Heartbreak for Phoenix in Milton Keynes

Sunday, 1st March 2015

Milton Keynes Lightning 5 - Manchester Phoenix 4

Phoenix scorers: James Archer, Shaun Thompson, Tony Hand and Robin Kovar

J Davidson sponsored “Men of Iron” Manchester Phoenix came agonisingly close to getting a well deserved result in Milton Keynes on Saturday night.

Phoenix started the game with a blitz on Stephen Wall in the Lightning goal and scored with 2 out of their first 4 shots on goal. With just 75 seconds on the clock Frankie Bakrlik found James Archer in the middle and the in-form British forward flashed the puck past the netminder. The large Phoenix following had hardly caught their breath when Phoenix doubled the lead. Shaun Thompson was the scorer this time, assisted by Frankie Bakrlik and Robin Kovar. 2.20 gone and the visitors 2 goals up. 

Lightning were giving the puck up in their own zone and the Phoenix forwards were taking advantage, putting real pressure on the MK rearguard. The home side, however, scored with probably their first real chance when Blaz Emersic shot speculatively from the point and the puck beat a surprised Declan Ryan for 2-1 after 4.30. Phoenix continued to dominate but were unable to find a way past Stephen Wall and paid for the missed chances when Lightning equalised on 13.51. A fairly weak shot from Jordan Cownie found its way into the net and despite totally dominating the period, Phoenix had to settle for a shot count of 15-7 and a 2-2 scoreline.

The second period was a much closer event with end to end play. Phoenix, however, had a great spell around the half way mark, camping in the MK zone and took the lead on 37.18 with a Tony Hand tap in. Phoenix were looking good to hold on to the lead when Joe Graham was harshly called on a tripping penalty. MK lost the puck and Phoenix stormed forward forcing a clearance from Wall straight to the totally unmarked Leigh Jamieson and two other MK forwards against a lone Phoenix defender. Jamieson finished well with a fake pass and a shot through the five hole. 

End of two great periods of hockey and the teams could not be separated at 3-3.

Lightning started the better team in the third, putting the Phoenix defence under some real pressure. The game flowed end to end with two well matched teams giving no quarter.  With 6 minutes left, Lightning took the lead for the first time in the game. Jordan Cownie scored his second of the game and it looked like the home side were heading for the points. Two minutes later the game was tied at 4-4 when Robin Kovar scored a fine goal. Phoenix had pinned the Lightning defence deep in their own zone and Kovar’s deflected shot looped up in the air and fell nicely for the big Czech forward to drive the net to score from the side. 

Overtime was looming until 24 seconds from the end when play broke down in the neutral zone allowing Horava and Cownie to control the puck and find Kostourek free at the back post to net the winner. So Phoenix got back on the bus justifiably disappointed that a fine display brought no reward.