MANCHESTER PHOENIX 3 – 2 MILTON KEYNES LIGHTNING
Manchester Phoenix player coach Tony Hand claimed the extra point for his side in a 3-2 shootout win over the Milton Keynes Lightning last night in what was a drab affair and far away from the usual classics served up by these two sides over the past few seasons. Phoenix went into the game missing two players from the line up, with Scottish forward Adam Walker and defenseman James Neil not icing for the League champions as they welcomed the MK Lightning to the Altrincham ice dome for the first time this season.
Manchester started off the most attacking team in the game as Stephen Wall face more rubber in the Lightning nets and had him produce a fair few easy saves from the home side, but none of the shots that came in at him were really troubling efforts at all.
Milton Keynes themselves created a couple of chances in the period that saw them get a few odd man rushes, that was down to the home defence employing cover in defence, with Jared Dickinson taking some shifts as defenseman in the game for the home team.
The visitors got the opening goal of the game at 6-23, when pressure by the Lightning saw Michael Farn and Jordan Cownie assisting Lewis Hook whose effort on goal found a way past Stephen Fone for the lead in the contest.
Manchester then got dealt another blow at 7-05 gone in the game, when a scramble at the front of the nets saw a player falling down in the crease and land right on top of Stephen Fone right leg, which then saw play come to a halt and had him receive treatment on the ice. Fone then got helped off the ice and looked in a bad way and was replaced by Back up netminder Declan Ryan and so saw the Phoenix play with their concentration distracted by the injury to Fone and had the opposition trying to capitalise on it.
Phoenix was getting caught out badly a couple of times and if not for the inability of the Lightning forwards to strike (pardon the pun) then the home side would have found themselves trailing by more than the one goal at that point.
For all the quickness that the Milton Keynes possessed on the ice, that couldn’t be said however for their line changes throughout the game. It would be fair to say to they were slow in deciding on their line changes and was as quick as a slug running the 100 metres race. After many warnings by Andy Miller the match referee it had the official lose patience with the away team and so penalised them for a delay of game at 8-47 and drew protests, but they had no one to blame but themselves over it.
Phoenix then went on the power play and didn’t make much of the extra man advantage at all and so had MK kill it off with relative ease in truth.
Neither side was able to get anything going in the way of fluidity to their play as it made for a very disjointed and scrappy game by both teams on the ice. At 14-59 it saw the hosts tie the game up at 1-1 when Jack Watkins jumped onto a poke pass by Corson-Heron from the side of the net and Watkins was alert to quick get on to it and slide it in past Wall for a nice goal to see the game level.
Once again the slowness of the Lightning bench came to the fore and saw Milan Kostourek who was told a couple of times to return to the team bench for a late change, had the Czech forward argue over it and so saw another delay of game called against the visitors with Nick Poole the head coach of the Lightning, signalling to his man to come off prior to the penalty and so another power play went the way of the Phoenix as the period came to a close.
In the middle stanza the period was drearier than the previous one, with not much in the way of excitement from either side and had the atmosphere in the ice dome flat as a pancake, to which the fans watched a turgid period by both teams.
Milton Keynes had the better of the attack though as they looked more threatening than that of the home team, but they too couldn’t find a way past Ryan as they looked in search of retaking the lead.
Manchester had a spell of good pressure on the Lightning goals in the period with the puck sent whizzing across the front of their crease on more than one occasion, but again nothing really coming of it.
In the final minute of the second it saw Lightning forward Blaz Emersic flying up the ice and let loose a bolt from the right faceoff circle of Ryan, which saw the Phoenix netminder just get a piece of the puck off his glove to turn it onto the goal post and have the sound of pipe work ringing through the rink and bring a goalless period to an end.
With the game tied at one apiece to start the 3rd period it saw the sides slightly open up a bit more and saw both teams with Wall and Ryan having good games for their respective sides in keeping it level.
Leigh Jamieson then restored the lead for the Buckinghamshire club, when the forward skated round the Phoenix zone unchallenged by a Phoenix defenseman and saw him slot home with a lovely solo goal, but really should have been dealt with in the build up it at 45-34.
It looked to be another game where Manchester in previous matches would have probably dropped their heads and cave in, however Manchester battled back and the saw them get a bit a bit of luck go their way too for their tying goal.
James Archer and Bobby Chamberlain was trying to find a shooting lane to get a shot off on Stephen Wall, but the MK defense was standing firm and so when Chamberlain effort hit of Robin Kovar at the front of the net, it saw the puck hit him and go in by Wall for a 2-2 game with under 6 minutes of the game remaining.
With the clock expiring for a winner in regulation, it saw the game head to an overtime period to see who would claim the extra point in the standing. Manchester had been boosted by their goal late in the 3rd and it shown as they had a couple of chances to win it, Tony Hand nearly notched the game winner with a couple of minutes remaining in the extra period, as him and Bakrlik went on a 2 on 1 which saw Hand wind up for a big slapshot and dinged off the goal post and away to safety for the Lightning.
MK then had their chance to take the spoils, when Kostourek was sent away up ice and had only Ryan to beat, but the Phoenix goaltender stood up well to make a good pad save on him and deny him the winning goal. The horn sounded with the Milton Keynes side finishing the game with a power play that they couldn’t make full use off with 13 seconds to go and so that meant the dreaded penalty shoot out was used to decide the winner of this game.
James Archer went first for the home side and saw him and Milan Kostourek both miss their sides opening penalties, but goals by Frantisek Bakrlik and Michal Psurny for the Phoenix were cancelled out by Blaz Emersic and Jordan Cownie efforts to see the score 2-2 after the 4th round of penalties.
Misses by Robin Kovar and Joe Graham for the home side and Adam Carr and Stanislav Lascek for the visitors brought out saw player coach for Manchester in Tony Hand, as the Scottish veteran tried to give his side the advantage and after a slight miss control in the build up to his shot, it seen the forward recover and commit Wall out of the nets before neatly lifting it up over him to go 3-2 up.
Leigh Jamieson then came out for the Lightning, knowing they needed to scored to stay alive in the game and has his penalty saved by Ryan to which gave the Phoenix the extra point to move up the table and get their league campaign back on track.
Phoenix netminder Declan Ryan said on Phoenix TV: “It was great to get ice time tonight; although I would rather Stephen (Fone) had not got injured. I really enjoyed the game and it was great to get the win.”
British forward Bobby Chamberlain commented on the win on the Phoenix Podcast: “They`re a good team and came out strong as well; It was a weird game to tell you truth, we had chances, and they had some chances, but we got the win and doing well at home now winning the last 3. He added” It`s good to get these wins that are close, because towards the start of the season we had a couple of games that we should have won and we didn’t really get the wins.”