Phoenix guarantee sixth place finish

Sunday, 25th March 2007

Phoenix 5 - 3 Giants

Manchester Phoenix secured a sixth place finish in the bmibaby Elite League table on Saturday night with a thrilling 5-3 win over the Belfast Giants.

With Belfast on a run of eight straight wins and Phoenix still not at 100% due to ongoing sickness, it was always going to be a tough game and so it transpired as with just 95 seconds having elapsed, Derek Campbell and Jeff Hutchins dropped the gloves after the latter had slashed the Phoenix forward and both picked up five-minute fighting penalties. Phoenix drew first blood on the scoreboard as Tony Hand picked the pocket of the Giants defence to score unassisted on a wraparound in the 13th minute. Hutchins tied the game before the first interval with a shot of the left wing that eluded Jason Wolfe and with one second remaining Brett Clouthier and Jason Ruff exchanged unpleasantries, both again receiving major penalties for fighting.

The speed of the game if anything increased in the second period as both teams wanted the win and the game erupted in the 29th minute as Clouthier and Shawn Skiehar became involved and after a short scrap, both went to the penalty box on fighting majors. But, the disagreement continued behind the plexiglass and referee Moray Hanson decided enough was enough and sent both for the early bath on game misconduct penalties. The fracas though appeared to spur on the Phoenix as they exploded onto the score sheet with three goals in under four minutes. First Tony Hand bagged his second of the game, Derek Campbell added a third after good work from Hand and Johan Molin carved open the Giants defence and similar play from Campbell and Anthony Battaglia gave KC Timmons the chance to add the fourth Phoenix goal in the 35th minute.

Belfast regrouped in the second interval and came roaring back in the third period. Player coach Ed Courtenay reduced the arrears in the 48th minute and just over a minute later Jason Ruff made it a one-goal game. Phoenix held off the surging Giants and forced the visitors back. Entering the final moments, Giants lifted their goalie for an extra skater and after David Vychodil had shot wide of the unguarded net, Derek Campbell wrapped up the win after Johan Molin had collected the rebound and fed him in front of the Giants goal.

Phoenix bench coach Mike Kiesman noted, "I thought this would be a tough game as they were keen to try and finish on level points with Coventry. Once again, the fans got a show tonight. Eight goals, three fights and enough talking points to fill a couple of games. It was a big win for us as it secures sixth place in the table and now it's just a case of whether it's Sheffield or Cardiff we'll face in the playoffs next weekend."