Phoenix a point away from playoff berth

Monday, 12th March 2007

Phoenix 2 - 3 Devils after penalty shootout.

Manchester Phoenix earned a valuable point from Sundays' dramatic penalty shootout loss to the Cardiff Devils and with Hull and Edinburgh both losing, Phoenix now need just one more point from their seven remaining games to be guaranteed a berth in the post-season playoffs.

On the back of Saturdays' terrific win in Coventry, Phoenix came out hard against the Devils and opened the scoring in the 4th minute as top scorer Johan Molin blasted them ahead on the games first powerplay. Cardiff hit back and had the better of the possession in fast and entertaining first period despite losing sniper Mark Smith with a badly cut lip.

Smith returned for the visitors at the start of the second period and four minutes in, Dave Iannazzo fired a right wing shot past Jason Wolfe with the Phoenix goalie screened and unsighted to tie the score at one-one. The end-to-end play continued to unfold and at the end of the period, the game was poised on a knife-edge.

Phoenix again gained the upper hand on the scoreboard in the 45th minute as Anthony Battaglia swept home his first goal since signing last week. Despite playing their fourth game in five nights, Phoenix kept their work rate high only for Cardiff to equalise in somewhat freak fashion as Brad Voth fired a long range shot from the right wing that caught Jason Wolfe unawares in the 53rd minute.

Neither side could force a winner in the remaining regulation time or the resulting five-minute sudden death overtime period and the drama continued into a penalty shootout. Mark Smith, who had earlier sustained a badly cut lip, fired home the winner for the Devils, but the point from the regulation time tie sees Phoenix within touching distance of the post-season playoff berth.

Phoenix coach Tony Hand commented, "My guys have performed superbly these last four games and we deserve to make the playoffs. There are still seven games to play in the regular season and the results from those will determine exactly where we finish and more importantly, who we'll play in the quarterfinal draw."