Phoenix overcome Steelers in a barn-burner

Sunday, 25th November 2007

A powerplay goal from Sean Starke in the final three minutes lifted Manchester Phoenix to victory over arch-rivals Sheffield Steelers on Sunday night, in a game full of excitement and incident.

Phoenix welcomed back Joe Tallari, but were without defenceman Jeff MacMillan against a Steelers side in good form and keen to maintain a run of good results against the home side. With a noisy and boisterous creating an excellent atmosphere, Phoenix blasted into a fifth minute lead as Luke Stauffacher collected a pass from Sean Starke before firing a high shot from the left flank that deceived Lehman in the Steelers goal. With the play switching quickly from end to end, both goalies were called upon to make some big saves and in a game with some big physical hitting, somehow only one penalty was called in the first session with Phoenix successfully getting Simon Mangos back into play to end the period.

Sheffield turned up the wick in the second period and started to dominate the play with Scott Fankhouser outstanding in the Phoenix net as he turned away a steady barrage of shots. Phoenix killed penalties against Omar Ennaffatti and Scott Basiuk, twice, with some resolute defence before counter attacking with Lehman called up on to deny Tallari and Passmore to keep the game just a one-goal spread going into the second interval.

The final stanza saw Sheffield again dominating the possession, but roared on by an enthusiastic crowd, Phoenix were defending doggedly. Fankhouser remained the busier goalie and tempers flared in the 51st minute when he reacted to a challenge by Ryan Finnerty and Brett Clouthier stepped into ensure things didn’t get out of hand. With the home fans beginning to think of a shut-out for Fankhouser, Sheffield finally made the breakthrough as captain Jonathon Phillips forced the puck home at 54:50. Phoenix didn’t buckle and when Rod Sarish was called for Slashing, the home crowd raised the roof of the Silver Blades Ice Dome as Sean Starke fired them in front with a superb one-timer effort from the left wing with less than three minutes to play. Sheffield pulled the goalie inside the final minute with Phoenix shorthanded, Ennaffati in the penalty box for Cross-Checking, but Phoenix held firm to record their first win in five games and first of the season over the Steelers.

Phoenix player coach Tony Hand commented, “obviously, we needed that result and I thought it was an excellent performance in a terrific game of hockey. Both teams worked their socks off and you could tell by the noise from the crowd that both sets of supporters appreciated it. Scott Fankhouser was tremendous tonight and made some big saves, but all round we played hard throughout and with Jeff still missing, we defended admirably.”

 Phoenix travel to Edinburgh next Saturday before facing the Hull Stingrays in Altrincham on Sunday evening – face-off at 5.30pm.  

Fankhouser in action

Man Of The Match - Scott Fankhouser

Sean Starke

Sean Starke scored the match winning goal
(Image: Richard Murray)

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