ICE HOCKEY: Walker double helps Phoenix thunder on past the Lightning

Two goals by forward Adam Walker proved to be the difference in the 5-3 win over the Milton Keynes Lightning on Sunday evening, as the English Premier League Champions leapfrogged the Buckinghamshire side into 6th place in the table in what was a fairly scrappy and at times a cagey contest between the two established teams. It saw the Phoenix take the lead after 1.48 gone in the game, as fresh from his Gold medal winning exploits with the GB-u20 team in Bobby Chamberlain as his pass was taken by Robin Kovar who in turn found Luke Boothroyd and the Phoenix Captain found himself with acres of space in the MK zone, before blasting by Stephen Wall to put the home side one up.It then took visitors till 11.57 in the period to respond and it came from a drive up ice by Michael Farn, to which saw the Lightning glide uncontested by an opposing player, before he played it to Blaz Emersic and the forward made no mistake as he tapped in at the front door to draw the scores level at 1-1, while Lewis Hook picked up an assist on the goal.
Manchester then found themselves on a 5 on 3 penalty kill with Jared Dickinson and Robin Kovar serving time for Tripping and Interference offenses and Unlike the night previous where a 5 on 3 was the down fall late on for the Phoenix lost to the Peterborough Phantoms in a Shootout, this time round the Phoenix managed to kill off the penalties without having to do much in the way of blocking shots with the two man disadvantage. Manchester then retook the lead again in the final minute of the 1st, when frantic play at the front of the MK goal saw Bobby Chamberlain effort stopped by Wall to which the goalie had no clue where the puck was. The crowd was screaming and willing it in and saw a bit of a scramble at the front of the crease, with Lewis Christie being the unfortunate man to accidently put the puck in his own net for a 2-1 score.
The visitors were trying to see how far they could push the line before being penalised, as a few noticeable calls went missed by referee Steve Brown to which included a nasty Check to the head by Chris Wiggins on James Archer which wasn`t called and then led to Robin Kovar being called for Interference, as the Czech man bundled into the back of Wiggins off the puck with a hard check in the back. Jordan Cownie was lucky not to get a checking from behind call after his hit on Frankie Bakrlik, to which saw him catch the Phoenix man full on the numbers on the back of the Manchester man shirt and saw him crash into a two players by the boards that saw a MK man and Phoenix take a tumble with Bakrlik crashing into them both. However Brown did call something eventually for the hosts, with Shaun Thompson holding the puck up in the corner board, he was eating time on the penalty kill and saw Michael Farn trying his best trying to get the puck loose, but it led to Farn at least on two or three occasions stamping down on Thompson leg/foot and saw Farn pick up a Unsportsmanlike Conduct call against him.
The start of the Second period saw the Lightning and Emersic once again level things up with Lewis Hook and Jordan Cownie combining to set up the forward for his second goal, as he ghosted round the Phoenix defence and somehow found a way by Declan Ryan in the Manchester goal for the tying goal at 20.58.James Archer then picked up a bizarre Holding call, as he was more the one on the receiving end of it than committing it, but the official saw it other way round and sent him to the penalty box and put Phoenix back on the penalty kill. This saw from the resulting penalty against Archer, the home side retaking the lead once more in the game after a short-handed effort by Robin Kovar had the Czech forward drill a shot low past Stephen Wall and make it 3-2 at 31.45 in the game.
Manchester then scored twice in the space of five minutes, with both goals coming on the power play from Adam Walker, with the Scottish forward netting both power play goals for the home side. His first came with an element of little deflection that may have tricked Stephen Wall in the Lightning nets at 34.16, but his second goal had no luck to it at all, as the forward danced his way through the MK defence and made a little move on Wall to score at 38.26 and put the Phoenix 5-2 up heading into the final period and see them all but break the Lightning spirit.
An early goal in the 3rd period for the visitors seemed to be a perfect response for the rest of the period, but the Phoenix bounced back and closed down all the shooting lanes that the MK side seemed to be using and saw them unable to get many shots off on Declan Ryan. Their third goal of the game came from a break from within their zone and saw Marek Curilla come away with the puck, before a stretch pass across the ice beat Johan Burlin attempt to stop it reaching Jordan Cownie, but the puck did reach Cownie and after skating over the Phoenix defensive zone, his pass at the front of the net was superbly tipped in by Leigh Jamieson and saw the Lightning still not out of the contest yet.
Phoenix had a chance for a Sixth goal after some good team play by the Phoenix forwards, had Tony Hand set James Archer off on a charge and his one-two with Michal Psurny nearly saw Archer score but was stopped by the glove of Stephen Walls, with the netminder keeping his side in the game once again.  Declan Ryan was then called upon to make a few saves for the home side and he dealt with the shots pretty well and saw the game come to a close and saw the Phoenix moving up to Sixth position in the table, trail by just two points on the Swindon Wildcats as we head into the festive season now and a tough couple of games against the league leaders the big spending Telford Tigers in a Home and Away weekend.
Adam Walker told Phoenix TV “It has been a good weekend for us. I thought we played well last night in Peterborough and were unlucky not to get both points. Milton Keynes is always tough side to beat and we worked hard for the win. We are still a bit short on players but we are putting a run together that hopefully will see us climb the table.”
Game Highlights: PHOENIX TV 
Official Podcast:  Phoenix Podcast

ICE HOCKEY: GIANT win for Belfast snaps losing streak


The Belfast Giants snapped a three game losing streak on Sunday Night at the N.I.C (National Ice Centre) in Nottingham, with a hard fought 6-3 win over the Nottingham Panthers in what was a scrappy contest between two of the heavyweights in the Elite League. Two goals by Darryl Lloyd and tremendous road game by the league champions saw them beat their title rivals to stay within touching distance of the top four in the Elite League table.
Belfast found themselves 2-0 up inside the opening 4  minutes of the contest with Daryl Lloyd netting twice for the Giants, as the Panthers defense was unable to clear their lines and saw the Giants capitalise on a couple of mistakes by the hosts to take a deserved lead. After losing 3-2 to Hull Stingrays the night before, the Giants came out the traps flying and the League Champions were looking to use this final game on their four game road trip as a springboard to push on. 
Nottingham needed something to happen as they were being bossed around the ice by the visitors for almost the opening 10 minutes of the first period with the hosts unable to get any kind of spark igniting from their bench at all.  They then got given an opportunity on the power play when first off Colin Shields was called for a Hook on the Belfast side and so with over half way through the man 5 on 4 advantage, Adam Keefe tangled with a Nottingham man at the front of the Panthers net behind the play and picked up an Interference call for his troubles at 9.16 gone in the game.
This saw the power play unit fire for the Panthers, as Cody Wild drilled one by Carsen Chubak in Giants net to see the home side get on the scoreboard for 1-2, with former Giant Chris Higgins and Bruce Graham assisting at 9.47 to give the Panthers a way back into the game.  We then saw hundreds of Teddy Bears thrown on the ice to celebrate the home side scoring, in which all bears thrown and collected on the ice was being rounded up and taken to a local children`s charity in the Nottingham area which is a nice touch by the Panther organisation. However the delay in clearing the Bears up from the ice seemed to completely kill the momentum that the Panthers had built up on the goal, and it played more into the hands of the away team as they could regroup from the rest.
Belfast regained control of the game and looked very threatening on the attack for the duration of the opening period of play, with Nottingham netminder Mattias Modig having to be on his game to deny a few Belfast goal scoring opportunities. The Giants seemed to have been playing with an heir of determination to their all round play and following their loss the night before you clearly see they wanted to make amend for it.
In the Second period and the Giants continued their dominance of the game, to which they increased their lead to 3-1 after just 36 seconds gone, when Kevin Westgarth managed to score at the front of the net and had the travelling support back on their feet once more as Craig Peacock and Mark McCutcheon was credited with assists on the Westgarth goal.  Panthers really were struggling in the game, as they found it hard to come by creating much in the way of chances or even keeping possession as they were caught out a couple of time. Nottingham had a lot of misplaced passes during the match and the Giants failed to make the most of them when they came to trying finish the chances off. 
Robby Sandrock then took a needless penalty for the Giants when he launched himself towards an opposing player near the benches and was rightly called for Charging at 23.46. From the resulting power play, it saw the home side once again make full use of the extra man advantage, with a David Clarke low drive getting tipped in at the front of the net by Bruce Graham stick and brought it back to within one of the visitors at 23-38 in the game.
The match officials then tried to spoil the game with their constant whistle blowing and calling of bad penalties upon both sides, to which the other referee seemed made make up calls on their opponents. Neither side got much in the way rhythm going on in the second twenty minutes of play, with the constant stop start of the game from the stripes out on the ice as they made it a very infuriating game to watch for all concerned.  Belfast was taking the majority of the penalties and saw the home side go on another 5 on 3 power play with Robby Sandrock back in the penalty box, along with Mike Kompon as they picked up Roughing and Slashing calls .
Nottingham`s power play unit who had done a good job in the game so far scoring twice on the special teams, then tied the game up at 3-3 after a bit of a controversial moment that saw the Panthers level at 27.13.  It saw a shot come in from an angle and had the Giants netminder Carsen Chubak spill the puck loose and lost it numerous times, before laying on the puck and looking to have covered it underneath him. But Higgins for the Panthers poked under the netminder and forced the puck into the net, which led to angry protests from Belfast players furious with Stefan Hogarth decision to award the goal as the official skated quickly away from the incident.  
It saw the N.I.C rocking with the Panthers nation believing that the goal and perhaps momentum had swung in their direction now for the rest of the match. Chubak was clearly rattled by Nottingham`s 3rd goal and looked unsure of himself and saw his defence having to get their focus back with the Panthers now taking over and peppering the Belfast goals with shots and had them come close to taking the lead, when the puck dinged off the post and saw a scramble to clear it away from danger.
Play became end to end with neither side wanting to concede the next goal and it felt like the hosts would be that side to as they turned it up a notch and had a feeling of whoever scored next, would have the upper hand in the contest. That go-ahead goal came and went for the Giants, after a very fortunate bounce went their way, as Jeff Mason and Kevin Westgarth assisted Craig Peacock to which his effort bounced in off a Panthers defenseman to see Belfast retake the lead at 4-3 at 32-10.
With seconds ticking down on the Second, the visitors committed too many men forward and  got caught in possession by the hosts to which they lead a break away and luckily for the Northern Irish side, Jeff Mason was back checking and managed to poke the puck away to stop a dangerous attack coming to nothing.  With the hooter sounding it brought and an end to interestingly poised contest at 4-3 to the Giants and with just a period to go, it saw an exciting period to go.  
In the final period it saw the Belfast Giants stifle the Panthers comeback attempts, as the Giants played a very smart road game to combat the home side attack, to which Nottingham struggled to create much and saw them beginning to run out of ideas in the match. The killer blow for the home side came at 44.48 in the 3rd, when Chris Lawrenson was sitting for two minutes in the box after a received a Slashing call against him and saw the visitors go on a rare power play and had Jeff Mason convert on the man advantage, with Robby Sandrock and Craig Peacock getting assists for the Giants 5th goal, to restore a two goal cushion.
Sawada nets Empty net goal to seal Belfast Win

In truth, the Panthers throughout the game played lethargic and didn`t really look like themselves, as they failed to test Chubak to much in the Belfast goals as he didn`t exactly pull up any trees with his performance in the game.  His defense however in front of him deserve a lot of credit, as they kept the Panthers to arms length at times and never gave them a sniff in the 3rd period of a remote chance of coming back as the fact they stayed out of the box increased the Giants chances of victory.

So when Nottingham rolled the dice one last time and pulled the netminder for the extra attacker in attempt to try and bring it back to within a goal game, it saw Robert Farmer pick up a 10 minute Abuse of Official call with 44 seconds remaining and didn`t help their cause.  The Giants sealed victory with an empty net goal after their first effort missed the target and then had Ray Sawada make saw this time, finishing off the game putting home.  The sight of the Primrose and Charcoal jerseys suddenly dispersing into empty blue seats saw the flip side of things in the corner, with the small gathering of Teal and White shirted Belfast fans rising to their feet to salute their heroes and celebrate a big win on the road in a very difficult building to come and pick up a result in.

ICE HOCKEY: Czech Mate for Bees as Kovar & Bakrlik thrash Bees

Manchester Phoenix   7    –   0   Bracknell Bees

Manchester Phoenix made it four straight wins at home with a comfortable 7-0 thrashing of bottom of the table Bracknell Bees as the Phoenix proved too powerful for the Bees to handle and saw them overcome a weakened Bracknell side that was missing key youngster that on GB duty, but a brace by Czech Republic pair Frankie Bakrlik and Robin Kovar saw them victors. It saw home comforts for the Manchester side after they went down in Wiltshire on Saturday night to the Swindon Wildcats losing 4-2. 
Both side were missing some of their key players as the Phoenix had netminder Steve Fone not icing due to an ankle injury and then missing forwards Jack Watkins out with an injury too and Bobby Chamberlain who was away on International duty for the G.B Under 20`s. Phoenix gave a home debut to Gareth O` Flaherty as the former Telford Tiger came in to the side on a 2-way deal with the ENL (English National League) Coventry Blaze.
In the case of Bracknell it saw them missing defenseman Harvey Stead and forward Ivan Antonov due to representing the Great British Under 20`s national side of which had Chamberlain of the Phoenix as team mates.
The game itself was pretty much dominated all the way through by the Manchester Phoenix as the home side put the slightly inexperienced Bees side in trouble from the off, as the hosts tested Alex Mettam in the Bracknell goals and saw him called upon fairly often with the Phoenix attack threatening throughout.  Pavel Strycek was called for a Hooking call on Frankie Bakrlik at 3.00 and so put the home side on a power play to which the Phoenix made use of with James Archer scoring put the puck past Mettam at 4.44 and see Manchester lead 1-0 with assists given to Bakrlik and Tony Hand.
Bracknell was lacking any kind of cutting edge in their play and whether it was in physical play or attacking play, the Bees just seemed to lack confidence and belief across the ice, with no real plan at all. Harvey Hind-Pitcher then took the trip to the penalty box went he sat for two minutes for a High Sticking call at 5.19 and saw a failed attempt to convert with the extra man advantage for the Phoenix as the Bees killed it off successfully. 

Manchester completely dominated the period and saw the Bees rarely threaten the hosts whatsoever, as the scoreline was the only thing to close. Phoenix then netted a second goal in the match following a Tripping call by Jan Bendik on netminder Declan Ryan, who had cleared the puck from behind his own net, before the Slovakian used his stick to upend the netminder. 
Czech forward Frankie Bakrlik then made it 2-0 on the power play, when a pass across ice from Robin Kovar rebounded in off the Czech forward skate and deflected in over Alex Mettam to double their lead at 19.48.
Second period and the home side continued to assert their dominance of the game, as the Phoenix then had a little spell of penalty trouble to  which first off Joe Graham was sent to sit for two over a Tripping call and then once the penalty expired Graham was skating back to the bench and saw the line change by Manchester get horribly disorganised and was called for Too Many Men at 25.52. 
Manchester killed the penalty off and put the beleaguered Bees in more trouble as Mettam wasn’t getting much help from his defense as he’d like to have done, which basically saw Bracknell come under a wave of pressure throughout and Phoenix cut through them.
Manchester then went 3 up at 29.59 when Frankie Bakrlik shot was partly saved by Alex Mettam and the puck managed to find its way into the back of the Bees goal for Phoenix to all but seal the points in reality. Bracknell was in disarray and unable to mount any type of attack whatsoever in the contest and it was clear there was to be no way back for the men from Berkshire. Assists on the Bakrlik goal got credited to James Neil and Robin Kovar as the hosts was putting on a good show for the large crowd inside the Altrincham Ice Dome.
Manchester nearly made it four when a three on one saw Michal Psurny and Tony Hand and James Archer all break up ice but a overly worked move saw Phoenix unable to get a shot off against Mettam and so Bracknell was let off the hook.
Robin Kovar made it 4-0 at 36.28 when Bakrlik and former Bees forward Shaun Thompson assisted the Czech man to convert on what was the easily goal he`ll probably score this year. Kovar picked up the puck behind the Bracknell goals and with no defense at all trying to stop the Phoenix man he seemed to skate round in stages and so the left of the cage was unguarded to which he put home and summed up the Bees side that was lacking enthusiasm, attack and defense all game.
With the period winding down, the Bees had a couple of rare efforts on Declan Ryan as they tried to generate some creativity and found Ryan in the Manchester nets turning away all shots that came towards him and had the Manchester defence having one of their easier games with Bees playing a kind of damaged limitation type game.
In the final session it saw Kovar collect a penalty after just 41 seconds gone into the third, as he was called for Hooking and saw play down the Bees end rather than that of the home side as the visitors really wasn`t have their best nights to be honest. Minutes later the Czech forward netted his second of the game and Manchester`s 5th at 43.28, with Joe Graham and Frankie Bakrlik setting up Kovar to fire top shelf over the shoulder of the netminder and see the home side taking the visitors apart with their high tempo play and the lack of depth within the Bracknell side being exposed.
Lewis Turner got called for Tripping for the Bees with just over 10 minutes of the game to go, this saw the Phoenix unable to convert with the extra man but they did score not too long later, when captain Luke Boothroyd shot at the front of the net and his effort found a way in by Mettam for 6-0 at 51.59 and the thought must have come across the minds of the travelling Bees fans that made the journey up for the game and whether they would concede double figures due to the way their side was defending.  
The scoring came to end less than a minute at later in the game at 52.28, when Tony Hand had time and space to bide his time and fire into the net that was gaping and the player coach made it 7-0 and all but saw Phoenix avenge their loss down at the ‘Hive’ a few weeks prior and did so in lethal fashion.
Manchester played the game out and gave Declan Ryan a early Birthday present in the shape of a shutout and his 3rd of the season with the previous two coming in the EPL Cup campaign.  

SLEDGE HOCKEY: Phoenix dethrone the SteelKings



Friday Night saw the War of the Roses in sledge hockey take place as the Red Rose of Lancashire prevailed in the bragging rights steaks as the Manchester Phoenix blanked their opponents the Sheffield SteelKings 7-0 at Ice Sheffield with Rob Allen netting his first Hat Trick in Phoenix colours and saw the middle period explode into goals for the visitors in the contest.
Sheffield was using this friendly as a way to gain valuable experience ahead of the new season next year and also blood some new players in the match in which saw them come up against a tough opponent in their nearest rivals the Manchester Phoenix.  Manchester had the massive problem pre-game of not being able to field a goaltender between the pipes, with number one Steve Midghall getting caught up in traffic somewhere on the M62 and so saw the Phoenix taking turns in net to make up for the missing goalie.
The SteelKings have only been together for a short space of time and so as much as the Yorkshire club would love to be challenging for honours, it is very much a case of just getting settling into their environment and taking a season to get used to the speed of the game and everything else that is involved in Sledge Hockey and will be a learning curve for the SteelKings. The host have made one big signing as they’ve brought in Team GB international Bryan Hackworth from their fellow Yorkshire rivals, the Kingston Kestrels and saw him facing a hell of a lot rubber than he wanted to be doing.
In the opening period of play it saw both sides trying to come to terms to the 4 on 4 hockey that was taking place, as with both sides struggling for bodies and so the best solution was to play a man short in the game. It did lead to the teams and Manchester noticeably finding it a tricky task to master at first with Sheffield trying to construct a decent attacking threat, but it was always being snuffed out by the visitors in the white shirts of Manchester.
Manchester had the better of the play as expected and was cut through the SteelKings defence with ease on many occasions, with their experience showing more as the Sheffield side are side a team learning their way and had Dominic Cosgrove seeing his effort saved by Bryan Hackworth in the Steel Kings goal to see the score remain goalless after 10 minutes of play. Phoenix then took the lead just prior to the first period ending, when Graham Wilson skated in on goal and his shot just managed to go over the line and saw the away side taking a one goal lead into the first break.
In the second and the wheels came off for the inexperienced Sheffield team, with the Manchester side netting four goals in the middle period with Phoenix duo Karl Nicholson and Rob Allen forming a dangerous attacking combination which between them saw the pair score three goals.
Dominic Cosgrove though that he had extended the away side lead early on in the period but unluckily for him his shot struck the pipework and so remained 1-0 to the traveling side. Cosgrove did eventually managed to get on the score sheet and score his first goal for the club too, when the forward moved to the front of the net and managed to put it under Hackworth for a 2-0 score to double their lead.
Two became Three, when Great British Paralympian Karl Nicholson then scored a fortunate goal as a lofted puck managed to deceive Hackworth and seen the puck find its way into the back of the net for a 3 goal cushion, to see the Phoenix pulling away from their opponents. Rob Allen who had a superb game for the away team, it saw him smash in goal number 4 for the Phoenix when the Manchester side was scoring without really being put under too much pressure and the SteelKings defensive frailties was sticking out a lot more. Sheffield’s net minder made a string of superb saves to limit the damage for the hosts with the Phoenix growing in confidence and looked like a goal would come on every attack, but Sheffield when they managed to defend did a good job.
In the 3rd period it saw the game shortened by five minutes due to the availability of the ice, however the Phoenix put their advantage and good play to good use with a further two goals coming in the period and could easily have been more.  Man of the Match for the visitors Rob Allen saw him score twice more to notch up an impressive hat trick and in the process record his first ever hat trick in his Sledge Hockey career.  Allen then made full use of the the slip up in the SteelKings defense which saw Hackworth distracted momentarily and the forward banged one past him for a 7-0 scoreline and a a bizarre goal to concede.
Despite Sheffield being outplayed and out worked by their much more experienced rivals, the home side players can take a lot of heart from the game, in which they never once stopped trying to mount an attack or skate with the Manchester side in their search of a goal that would have put a spring in their step. Hackworth was forced to produced a couple more good saves to stop the Phoenix going even further ahead as he denied the visiting forwards with a couple of stops and saw Sheffield getting into a couple of attacking positions, but just seemingly unable to connect with their passes and that will come with more game time.