Cup loss for short-staffed Phoenix

Sunday, 7th October 2007

Newcastle Vipers 3 - 2 Manchester Phoenix

Manchester Phoenix were unlucky to lose their Challenge Cup tie on Tyneside Saturday night going down by the odd goal in five to the hometown Vipers.

Phoenix travelled to the north-east without defenseman Jeff MacMillan and their cause was further hampered when forward Brett Clouthier was hurt on his very first shift. A seemingly innocuous collision with Vipers forward Jeff Hutchins saw Clouthier take an awkward fall and he played only two more shifts before leaving the game and forcing major re-adjustments to the Phoenix formations.

Despite the short bench, Phoenix were unlucky not to open the scoring when Tony Hand saw a shot come back off a post with just two minutes played. Both sides had chances in an entertaining and fast-paced opening, but it was the Vipers who scored first when a quick transition saw former Phoenix star Derek Campbell race in and beat Scott Fankhouser on nine minutes for the only goal of the first period.

Phoenix fell two behind in the 25th minute when Mark Gouett fired home from the slot with Hand in the penalty box for a hooking infringement. Phoenix remained composed and working hard, they reduced the arrears on a 5-on-3 powerplay in the 33rd minute as Joe Tallari and Hand worked the opening for team captain Scott Basiuk to rifle home from the right wing circle.

Vipers killed an early third period penalty on Lundin before regaining their two-goal lead when a shot from Todd Jackson came back off the pads of Fankhouser and Colin Shields blasted home in the 47th minute. With the home crowd expecting the Vipers to cruise home, they saw the fighting spirit of the Phoenix rise to the fore as they again cut the deficit to one with Tallari at the back post tucking home a sublime cross-ice pass from Tony Hand in the 53rd minute. Phoenix piled on the pressure and forced the Vipers into two quick penalties in the final three minutes. With 30 seconds remaining, Phoenix pulled Fankhouser for the extra skater, but the Vipers kept them at bay to squeeze home on the 3-2 score line.

Phoenix bench coach Davey Graham commented afterwards, "Considering Big Mac wasn't here and we lost Clootch on his first shift, we actually outshot the Vipers on their own ice and were a little unlucky. We certainly made enough chances to have taken something from the game. We've still got two more games in the group stages, we're not out of it by any means."