Phoenix edged as Vipers book playoff berth

Monday, 19th March 2007

Vipers 3 - 1 Phoenix

Manchester Phoenix took their illness-depleted squad to Tyneside on Sunday and for two periods they went chance for chance with the Vipers before the shortage of players hit home.

Vipers needing a win to guarantee their place in the post season playoffs got off to a quick start as Andre Payette edged them in front in the seventh minute with Brett Clouthier in the penalty box. Phoenix enjoyed good possession but found Mark Lee in the Vipers goal in impressive form as he kept them at bay at the first interval.

Phoenix upped their game in the second period and should have scored three times before they finally did. Anthony Battaglia, clean through pushed his shot wide; KC Timmons fired wide of an empty net after Lee had gone walkabout and failed to clear his zone and Johan Molin on another breakaway was foiled by the young Geordie goalie. But, the pressure eventually paid off as Molin took a feed from Derek Campbell to skate across the Vipers crease before netting a 39th minute equaliser.

Newcastle rallied in the final period and sealed the victory they required with goals from David Longstaff in the 52nd minute and just over ninety seconds later, Rob Wilson swept home a powerplay rebound to give the Vipers a two-goal margin. Phoenix continued to battle gamely, but the combination of so many games in recent weeks and three players missing due to sickness was just too big a handicap to overcome.

Bench coach Mike Kiesman noted, "we've had a lot of tough weekends recently, but this has to have been the hardest to cope with. Everyone is a little tired right now after the schedule we've had since the beginning of February. But the guys gave everything they had both tonight and last night, you just can't afford to lose three guys all in one hit."

Phoenix close out their regular season fixtures this week with three more home games at the Altrincham Ice Dome. Thursday sees the visit of the Basingstoke Bison before the Belfast Giants return again on Saturday with the Coventry Blaze the final home game on Sunday.