Phoenix beaten, but not bowed

Saturday, 13th September 2003

Manchester Phoenix went down by a 4-1 score line in Cardiff on Saturday, but that paid scant justice to a great effort from the new team.

Icing a roster four fewer than the Devils, the Phoenix gave as good as they got in the opening exchanges with both goalies called into action - McInerney in the home goal denying George Awada on a powerplay opportunity. Devils took a 7th minute lead as Vezio Sacratini picked up the puck in his own zone and finished a coast-to-coast rush with the opening goal of the game. A little under five minutes later, the same player capitalised on a defensive zone error by the Phoenix to score top shelf. A series of first period penalties saw both sides spurn powerplay chances and the home side went in at the first break with the lead with the shots on goal count 11-10.

Both goalies again in quick action in the second session as McInerney again denied George Awada on a 1-on-1 chance while Jayme Platt gloved a Merv Priest blast off the right wing. Phoenix were fighting back without having too much success in front of goal - Miroslav Skovira twice firing wide and Jason Hewitt unlucky to miscue with the Devils goal gaping. Shinn Larsson-Yahata was also denied by a floudering stop by McInerney before finally being beaten as Stockport born Mark Thomas pounced on a rebound off a Jeff Sebastian shot to reduce the arrears and send the visitors to the locker room happier after 40 minutes.

The Devils though came out flying to start the final session and twice in a two-minute spell Russ Romaniuk showed great hands to beat Jayme Platt after two further unfortunate lapses in the Phoenix defence. Phoenix didn't give up and McInerney continued to earn his corn denying Dwight Parrish from the blue line, Jason Hewitt off the right wing, stacking his pads to foil Jeff Sebastian and then with the Phoenix on a late man advantage, he again foiled Jeff Sebastian with a super glove save as the shot came in from the left wing.

Period scores: 2-0, 0-1, 2-1
Penalty count: Devils 32 mins; Phoenix 20 mins
Shots on goal: on Eoin McInerney 25; on Jayme Platt 29
Attendance: 2243
Devils MoM - Vezio Sacratini
Phoenix - Jeff Sebastian

Post Match comments from Devils Head Coach - Glenn Mulvenna

"I was pleased with the way the guys played in the first and third period, but in the second Manchester worked very hard and in fact took the game to us. Maybe that woke us up a little bit. Manchester worked really hard and all credit to them, it's a new bunch of guys and one of the first times they've probably played together, so I thought they played really well. I was surprised a little at how well they played given they had less bench strength than we did, but they showed a lot of heart and they have good team speed - I think they'll do well this year. It's good to see a Manchester team back, their fans were so supportive of us last year when their team folded - it's good to see them get their hockey back. We gave our local guys a chance, when we get in a game where there's a chance to use, we're gonna do just that. The goal here is to bring some of these kids along and see them in our line up in the next couple of years. A brace of goals apiece for Vez and Russ shows the old veterans are back at work, that line of them two and big Mike Ware was very good tonight, but they needed to be as Manchester kinda stifled the other two lines we were running."

Reaction of Phoenix Head Coach Rick Brebant

"You're always disappointed when you lose, but I thought we had the better of the play. We moved the puck well, we closed them down in the neutral zone, but the bottom line is a couple of mental errors, that tend to happen when you put a new bunch of guys together, cost us. The performance and the effort by the guys was good and now tomorrow night, we have to capitalise on the opportunities that we make. We'll re-group as a team and look forward to our home opener and come to the rink ready to do the business. They had four extra players than us tonight and I think the way we played 'em showed the effort that our guys put in. All the local guys got ice time and worked hard, and they will improve as the year goes on. But, we were missing three guys, one injured in Eric and two more that we yet to sign and it was just those couple of mental mistakes that hurt us. Everyone gave 100% tonight and our time will come, things will turn our way. It's a long season, there's another 50-odd games to go and we've just got to make sure that we get better as a team with every game and I'm sure we will, this is a good team in the making.

We got unbelievable support tonight from the fans, we sold out our allocated section and we had more Phoenix fans in and amongst the home support, they were great and I think the players returned that support with a big effort."