Que sera, sera.... We’re going to Coventry

Monday, 30th March 2015

Basingstoke Bison 2 - Manchester Phoenix 4 (Phoenix win 8-7 on aggregate)

Phoenix Scorers: Bobby Chamberlain, Frantisek Bakrlik, Jacob Corson-Heron and Robin Kovar

J Davidson sponsored “Men of Iron” Manchester Phoenix defied all the odds on Sunday night with a display of guts and passion to win a place at the finals weekend with victory over reigning Play off Champions Basingstoke Bison.

In front of an almost sell out rink, and a Phoenix contingent that filled the away blocks, Tony Hand’s battle-weary squad pulled off a famous victory. The game started at a furious pace with Bison going all out to put the tie out of reach of Phoenix and Stephen Fone was called upon early to keep the status quo. However it was the visitors who took the lead on the night with a Bobby Chamberlain strike, assisted by Jacob Corson-Heron, on 7.41.  Back came Basingstoke and after 5 minutes of pressure, the equaliser came from sniper Tomas Karpov, assisted by Kurt Reynolds on 12.23. Things looked bleak for Phoenix 4 minutes later when Joe Greener scored to make it 2-1 on the night and give Bison a 2 goal aggregate lead. The scores stayed like this as the period ended, leaving Phoenix a mountain to climb to claim a place in Coventry.

The second period started with the visitors clawing their way back into the tie and the reward came on 22.30. Robin Kovar spotted Frankie Bakrlik coming on to the ice after a line change and sent a pin point pass to send “The Tank” in on Bison netminder Dean Skinns; a shot high over his shoulder making it 2-2 on the night. Five minutes later defencemen Joe Graham and Johan Burlin combined to find Jacob Corson-Heron and his shot never left the ice as it found its way past the Bison netminder to once again make the aggregate scores level. Tomas Karpov fell foul of the referee on 37.09 as he went to the penalty box on a hooking call and the Phoenix powerplay unit went to work. Holding possession for over half of the penalty, they worked space in the Bison defensive zone and Robin Kovar sent the Phoenix faithful wild with a goal on 38.15. Assists went to James Archer and Frankie Bakrlik. Phoenix were now ahead in the tie for the first time on the night. A minute later a dreadful challenge by Declan Balmer left Frankie Bakrlik down injured on the ice and Phoenix found themselves with a major 5 minute power play as the Bison man was ejected on a match penalty for tripping. The penalty was subsequently downgraded to a game penalty when Bakrlik returned to the game a few shifts later. End of two periods of scintillating hockey saw Phoenix holding a one goal advantage and a long powerplay to start the third.

The third period saw one of the best rearguard actions seen in the play offs as Bison threw everything but the kitchen sink at the visitors. Wave after wave of attacks bore down on Stephen Fone as the home side battled to get back in the game. The beleaguered defence put their bodies on the line to keep the lead and Phoenix, to a man, battled for the cause to defy all the odds and hold on for victory and a place in next weekend’s hockey fest in Coventry.

Coach Hand said after the game: “That was a battle out there and I am very proud of the whole squad who worked so hard to get a deserved win. Bison are a great side and very difficult to beat in their own rink. We kept to our game plan and the lads executed everything I asked of them. After such a hard season, we are still in the running for some silverware. Now we and our fantastic fans can look forward to another challenge next week in Coventry.”