Burgoyne shorthanded goal breaks Phoenix hearts

Tuesday, 17th March 2009

Belfast Giants 3 - 1 Manchester Phoenix
Giants win 6 - 5 on aggregate

A shorthanded goal from Mike Burgoyne with just over three minutes to play denied the Manchester Phoenix a chance to lift their first trophy as the Giants ran out 3-1 winners on the night, 6-5 over the two legged final to lift the Challenge Cup for the first time.

Phoenix travelled to the Dundonald Ice Rink for the second leg of the Challenge Cup Final holding a narrow one-goal advantage from the home leg in Altrincham. Belfast killed an early Slashing penalty against Evan Cheverie and when referee Boniface penalised first Alex Dunn and Nathan Ward to give the home side a two-man powerplay, things began to look ominous. Giants Bobby Robins quickly joined them, but still on a one-man advantage, the Giants tied the aggregate score in the seventh minute, Paul Deniset netting from close range, redirecting a shot from Andrew Martin. The goal certainly boosted the home team and their support, but the Phoenix were giving as good as they were getting. Phoenix killed a penalty against Brett Clouthier only for Giants player coach to fire them into a two-nil lead on the night in the 17th minute lifting a short range shot past Stephen Murphy into the top corner.

Phoenix used the first break to re-read the gameplan and the interval worked well for them as they took the game to the Giants in the second period gradually increasing the pressure on the Giants goal. Stevie Lyle in the Belfast goal made an excellent save to deny Lucas Burnett before the Giants ran into penalty trouble as first Sample and then Howells sat our minor infringements. Phoenix eventually made their pressure count and whilst it wasn’t the prettiest of goals, they didn’t care as Tony Hand forced home a Brett Clouthier pass to tie the aggregate score at five each in the 34th minute. Belfast came back strongly and Stephen Murphy needed to be alert particularly when deflecting an Andrew Martin shot over the crossbar late in the session.

With all to play for, both sides attacked in the third period with first Murphy making excellent saves to deny Deniset and Cheverie before Lyle in the Giants goal foiled David-Alexandre Beauregard with three quick saves. As the clock ticked away, both sides were fully committed to winning the game with no thoughts of overtime or penalties to decide the outcome. Both goalies were now the centre of the attention until a clash in the corner saw Bruce Mulherin assessed a 2+10 minute penalty for Checking from Behind with Giants David Phillips reacting to the hit. The nett result saw Phoenix awarded a powerplay, but it was Burgoyne who pounced as a Tony Hand shot was blocked and cleared, and he raced away to somehow squeeze the puck underneath Murphy for the cup-winning goal. Try as they could in the final moments, Phoenix were unable to force another goal and it was left to former Phoenix and now Giants captain George Awada to lift the Challenge Cup.

A Phoenix spokesperson commented, “The guys gave everything tonight and naturally, we’re gutted at not lifting the cup. With the schedule we’ve had recently, some of the guys are very tired and we’ve had some sickness in the camp too, but we’re not using that as an excuse. We had our chances tonight and on another night, we’d have got the goals we needed. We congratulate the Giants, they fought back in the first leg to give themselves a chance tonight, and they made the most of it.”

Phoenix face the Hull Stingrays at 7.15pm on Thursday evening in Altrincham before travelling to Edinburgh on Saturday for their penultimate Elite League fixture. Sunday sees them take on Belfast again, this time in a game that doubles as both a league fixture and the first leg of the Knockout Cup Final. Face-off time on Sunday in Altrincham is 5.30pm.

Tony Hand

Man of the Match Tony Hand scored for Phoenix in the second period, but it wasn't enough to lift the cup

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