SHEFFIELD STEELKINGS 0 – 7 MANCHESTER PHOENIX
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.