ICE HOCKEY: Phoenix Get Burnt In Shootout









 Manchester Phoenix 5 Guildford Flames 6
(After Penalties 0-1)


Manchester Phoenix found themselves unable to complete a much 4 point weekend, as it saw a former Phoenix man in Swedish forward Marcus Kristofferson netting a hat trick for the Guildford Flames in what was a seesaw battle between the two sides at the Altrincham Ice dome and what was a thrilling game of hockey for all that watched.  Manchester looked to kick on after a their 8-3 victory down in Bracknell after they trailed 3-0, but scored 8 unanswered goals to take the victory on the Saturday Evening.

Phoenix started the game the brighter of the two sides as they put some early pressure on the visitors, but nothing that was really of note. Guildford then took the lead against the run of play at 3.54 as the Flames turned defence into attack and broke away up ice with Matt Towe and Vladimir Kutny assisting veteran forward David Longstaff, as the Guildford Captain went forehand to backhand cutting across the crease to slide the puck by Steve Fone and put the visitors up early 1-0.

Guildford then got into the game a bit more following their goal and enjoyed some chances on Steve Fone, but the Manchester netminder was more than equal to anything thrown on him in net. Manchester was only really threatening from the quick breakaways play they were creating and one of them led to an equaliser through Shaun Thompson. It all came from a Flames attack that saw them strike the crossbar and the puck was intercepted by home side through Shaun Thompson and as they broke on a 3 on 1 attack, it saw Thompson go top shelf on Greg Rockman for a 1-1 score.Minutes later though it saw Guildford given a power play opportunity as James Archer was called for a tripping on Marcus Kristofferson with the Swede making a bit of a meal of the fall, but no question it was a penalty. From there the Swedish forward in Kristofferson struck the twine to put the Flames back in front with the power play effort for 2-1 with Jozef Kohut and Tom Duggan assisting.

In the Second frame it saw the hosts on the penalty kill early for a mystery High Sticks call on Johan Burlin and that then saw the Flames go 3-1 up after a lapse in concentration by the home side.  Tom Duggan sent the puck towards to the side of the net from the boards and had Fone knock it away to the board right to the path of Kohut and he played it toward Kristofferson at the front of the net and saw the Swede score his 2nd of the game at 21.05.

The home fans were getting frustrated by the non calls against Guildford and were angered by a boarding call missed by Jez Lundin on James Neil that saw the referee stood no further away than 4 foot from the incident, but didn’t make a call.  Phoenix then seemed to channel their frustration into a goal from the following play as a shot on goal by Jack Watkins was tipped in by Robin Kovar at the front of the net to see them within one at 3-2.Guildford then got called for a Tripping on Frankie Bakrlik with the Czech forward upended and drew a loud cheer from the home fans as the official Andy Miller gave Manchester their first powerplay of the game with Vladimir Kutny going in the box. The opening minute saw them looking aggressive and trying to carve out a chance for themselves, but it saw them lose momentum as the man advantage went on and so the Flames killed it off.   

It soon saw Guildford having a man back in the penalty box once more as this time Jozef Kohut was called for Slashing and didn`t see much in the way of the shots at all for the home side, but did see a couple of Flames breakaways and needed Steve Fone to come up big on a couple of occasions. Ben Wood then took one for the team soon after, with the visitors having a chance and had Wood tying up his man, but the Guildford man still got the shot off and resulted in a Hooking penalty against the interim Captain.Johan Burlin then followed suit soon after as he was called for a Hooking call himself and gave the visitors a 5 on 3 man advantage for less than a minute. Manchester killed off both penalties and saw them returning to full strength, but then saw them given an power play after a Trip by Jez Lundin saw him perform a sliding dive that took the legs of a Phoenix man with 1.21 left to go in the Second and would see Manchester start the third period with the extra man advantage.

The start of the third period saw an incredible 20 minutes of hockey by both sides, with the hosts netting twice in the opening 46 seconds of the play. James Archer got the ball rolling in the scoring column firstly, as he scored on the power play with Robin Kovar and Frankie Bakrlik assisting at 40.26 and that was quickly followed by Bakrlik with the Czech man turning from provider to scorer, with a nice wrist shot that beat Greg Rockman in the Guildford nets for the 4-3 lead and the first time and only time the Phoenix would lead in the contest at 40.46.

Their visitors responded in kind 4 minutes later, when they scored two goals in quick succession too as Ben Campbell netted at 44.08 to draw level and then Marcus Kristofferson completed his hat trick at 45.53 to restore the Flames lead for a 5-4 score.  Rockman at 50.50 skate off towards the locker room with what looked like a groin strain and he was replaced by James Hadfield in the Flames net for the rest of the game.  Manchester then asserted a lot of pressure on the Flames defence and saw Andy Hemmings go for a Slashing call and then Danny Meyers follow quickly after for the same offence. Phoenix battered the Flames defence and saw them struggling to withstand the onslaught by the home side and saw a very well worked power play by Manchester saw them strike the pipe work, much to Guildford relief.

It seemed it was only a matter of time before the puck would go in eventually for the home side and when Jez Lundin was called again for Tripping, it saw the home needing to score sooner rather than later with time ticking down for the home team.  Phoenix quick passing was proving to be tricky for the Flames to deal with and when the puck fell to Tony Hand the player-coach for Manchester quickly fired the puck into the back of the net for a 5-5 game at 53.13. Manchester looked favourites to go on now and take the game as their tails were up and had Rockman in a bit of flap, as they pushed hard for the go ahead goal with the puck fizzing across the face of goal and saw the Flames hanging on in there as they refused to lie down and let the Phoenix find this winning goal. Guildford had a couple of chances themselves, which needed Fone to make a few saves to help his side stay in the game as it became end to end with a feel of overtime hockey being played out in the final couple of minutes. 

Neither side could find the breakthrough and so we headed into a overtime period of hockey and had fans of both sides standing to applaud the teams for an enthralling 60 minutes of hockey played. The hosts were much more the aggressors in the extra period of play, as the Flames seemed content to play it out and go to the lottery of the shootout.  Those plans were nearly thrown a bit when Branislav Kvetan was penalised for a Delay of Game penalty, to which after a lengthy discussion between the officials on ice it saw the home team given a 4 on 3 power play to try and score the game winner.

Manchester used their quick passing to good effect and had the Guildford defence in bother, but the visitors stood up well to the challenge and saw the hosts miss out on cashing in on their extra man advantage and see the game head to a shoot out. Both sides looked in search of the extra point on offer and had the home side taking the first penalty of the shootout with Adam Walker missing his effort with David Longstaff doing the same for the away side.  Further misses by Frankie Bakrlik and Shaun Thompson for the Phoenix and Josef Kohut for the Flames, but the final word went to Vladimir Kutny as he slipped his penalty through the legs of Steve Fone to see the Surrey-outfit claim the extra point and hand Manchester another home defeat.

MANCHESTER:  James Archer 1+0, Tony Hand 1+0, Ben Wood 0+1, Adam Walker 0+1, Robin Kovar 1+2, Shaun Thompson 1+0, Frankie Bakrlik 1+1, Jack Watkins 0+1
GUILDFORD: Tom Duggan 0+2, Paul Dixon 0+1. David Longstaff 1+0, Marcus Kristofferson 3+0, Branislav Kvetan 0+1, Vladmir Kutny 0+1, Jozef Kohut 0+3, Ben Campbell 1+0, Matt Towe 0+1 
MAN: Steve Fone 65.00  —  Shots faced: 41- (6)  Save %: 85.37  
GUI:  Gregg Rockman  50.50 – Shots faced 35 – (4) Save %: 88.57  /  James Hadfield  13.38   1-1-(1) Save %: 90.91

NFL: NFC/AFC Championships: Seahawks pull off a Miracle & Patriots geld the Colts on way to SUPERBOWL XLIX

This past weekend saw the Divisional championships games taking place for the AFC and NFC Divisions as it would determine who would be going to the big dance at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona.

It saw in the NFC championship between Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks absolute barnburner of a contest at Century Link Field in Seattle, with a thrilling climax to the contest that saw it needing overtime to see a winner of the game. In the AFC championship, it sadly wasn`t much of a contest at all at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, which saw the hometown New England Patriots meet the Indianapolis Colts.














Seattle will be heading back to their second straight Super bowl in a row, after they produced a miraculous and stunning comeback in the fourth quarter of the game to see them pull off a miracle in the first place. The Seahawks were looking dead and buried with 3 minutes of play to go in the match at Centurylink Field in Seattle, but a couple of late plays saw the Hawks back in the contest and could also arguably be said it was a of Green Bay throwing it away more than Seattle winning it.

Things started well for the home team, after Richard Sherman intercepted an intended pass by Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers to Devante Adams in the end zone, that saw the Seahawks drawing first blood. Green Bay then returned the favour in the Seahawks opening drive of the game, after Seattle Quarterback Russell Wilson saw his throw batted in the air and had HaHa Clinton-Dix collecting the ball and running to the Seahawks 5-yard line. The Packers though thought they`d scored a Touchdown after John Kuhn seemed to gone in the end zone, but on video replay it shown that the Fullback`s arm had been grounded prior to the ball hitting the whitewash and so they went again from the 1-yard line. Green Bay couldn`t get the score they wanted and so Mason Crosby came on to kick a field goal that put the ‘Cheese heads’ 3-0 ahead.

From the kickoff return it saw Doug Baldwin running into his team mate DeShawn Shead and in doing so fumbled the ball, which led to the Packers quickly jumping on it and recovering the ball. Green Bay missed a glorious chance to score a touchdown on a 2nd & goal, after Aaron Rodgers found Jordy Nelson wide open and the wide receiver was unable to take the catch in the end zone and saw a chance go begging. Mason Crosby was called upon once again for his kicking abilities with the boot and saw him make the field goal to see the visitors lead 6-0. Julius Peppers then sacked Russell Wilson and saw the Packers well on top in the contest, after the first quarter saw the Seahawks struggling to get anything going as they were being picked off with ease by the Green Bay defence. With Seattle unable to get a score, it saw Green Bay with the following drive finally get a Touchdown that their play deserved. Aaron Rodgers found Randall Cobb screaming for the pass in the end zone and after he got free from his marker, Rodgers fired a pass to him and saw him complete the catch to go 13-0 up with Crosby adding the PAT. Russell Wilson then tried to engineer a way back for the Seahawks in the first half, as he threw up field towards Jermaine Kearse but once again it saw Clinton-Dix taking the interception and running to the Seattle 34 yard line.

During the run by HaHa Clinton-Dix however, it saw Clay Matthews put a big hit on Wilson as he tried to stop the quarterback from getting into position to make a tackle and saw a helmet to helmet collision, that saw Green Bay losing 15 yards from it as the referees called it a ‘blindside hit’. A few plays later and it saw Aaron Rodgers throwing down the left side of the field, but Byron Maxwell was on hand to make the interception and saw Seattle back in control of the football. The rain then started to come down and saw the Seahawks looking to make advantage count, when a throw by Wilson went straight into the hands of Green Bay`s Sam Shields that saw him getting in between ball and Jermaine Kearse to see him make the interception in the end zone and end the first half with the Packers up by 16.

In the Third quarter and it needed something to spark in the game for Seattle and came when Russell Wilson had all the time in the world, after some great defensive work by the linebackers to give him the extra seconds to scan down field and it he found Doug Baldwin wide open to make a huge play on a 3rd & 19. Seattle then looked to take a field goal to get on the board, but they opted to go for a play from right out of nowhere, that saw a faked field goal attempt kicker Jon Ryan and when Ryan was given the ball, he threw it over the Packers defence to Garry Gilliam and he scored a touchdown that sparked a revival for the Seahawks. Cornerback for the home side in talisman Richard Sherman, saw the Seattle man pick up an arm injury colliding with teammate Kam Chancellor on the sidelines after they forced a Green Bay player off onto the sidelines.

The injury saw him struggle throughout the rest of the game as he carried on playing with just one arm and looked to be in some serious pain as it was reported later that he may have some nerve damage in it. With 5.04 left to go in the game, it saw Russell Wilson trying to find Kearse once again in middle of the field, but the catch wasn`t taken and so saw another interception with Morgan Burnett making the grab. This then started a trend of some weird Packers decision-making where they started to slowly implode on themselves with silly mistakes. First off that Morgan Burnett interception on the Seattle drive saw the Green Bay man inexplicability fall to the ground instead of running with the ball and picking up some vital yards. Seattle saw them given the ball back with just over 3 minutes left to go and trailing by 12 points, it needed the champions to score quickly if they had any chances of getting back in the game.

It then saw Wilson throwing to Marshawn Lynch; where ‘Beast Mode’ had just been switched on and saw initially a touchdown ruled for Seattle, however Lynch stepped out-of-bounds and so saw play brought back. With a 3rd and Goal for Seattle, it saw some clever thinking by Russell Wilson as the quarterback sneaked his way over for a touchdown, prior to the Two minute warning for a 19-14 lead to the Packers and had them trailing by 5 points. Kicker Steven Hauschka took an onside kick for the Seahawks, knowing he had to make it a good one for them having a chance to get the back. Hauschka kicked the ball into the ground for the extra bounce and saw the ball looking to be claimed by Green Bay with Jordy Nelson awaiting the ball and instead saw Packers teammate Brandon Bostick trying to be a hero and managed to fail with his attempt at collecting the airborne ball and saw it come off his helmet instead and into the hands of Chris Matthews for a recovery by Seattle and the ‘12thMan’ in the Seattle crowd saw them beginning to believe that this could comeback could happen.

This crazy game took another twist, as with 1.25 to go ‘Beast Mode’ was up and running and saw Marshawn Lynch running through the Green Bay defence and seemingly had the bizarre situation of the Seahawks scoring too early, as there was plenty of time left in the game for more drama. Seattle went for the two point conversion to give them a 3 point lead and when Russell Wilson was being hurried by the oncoming Packers defence, it looked like the chance had gone, but Wilson threw a desperation pass into the end zone and saw Luke Wilson managing to take it and spin over for the conversion and the two points. Seattle looked like they had won the game and the Packers seemed to have blown up in the contest now. When you`re side is trailing and need a quarterback to lead a huge drive for your team in a losing situation, one of those players you`d want to have in the world would be Aaron Rodgers and once again the quarterback came up trumps for the Packers. Rodgers threw a couple of completed passes to see his side move up field without taking any timeouts and saw the clock running, then he limped his way out of bound but not before he gained some more cruical yards for his team.

The next possession saw a 6 yard pass to Jordy Nelson being completed and saw the Green Bay kicker in Mason Crosby kicking a 48 yard field goal to tie the game at 22 apiece and see this game heading to overtime. Back in 2004 it saw the Seahawks and Packers playing out an overtime game in a Wildcard match up at Lambeau Field, on that occasion the Wisconsin side coming out as the victors thanks to the great Brett Favre. The coin toss was won by the home side and as they had done earlier in the season against Denver, Seattle chose to attack first and had Doug Baldwin taking a catch on a 3rd and 6 drive before he was forced out of bounds on the Green Bay 35 yard line.

The following possession brought this game to a close saw the comeback complete, as Russell Wilson pick out Jermaine Kearse who had a game full of interceptions coming from attempted passes to him in the game, however this time he was the hero and saw him make the catch and send the reigning champions the Seattle Seahawks back to the Super Bowl in a 28-22 win in overtime, after what was one of the most stunning Championship games in history.







In the AFC championship game it saw what turned out to be a pretty one-sided affair with the New England Patriots booking their place in Superbowl XLIX after a 45-7 blowout of the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium.  It saw a dominating performance from beginning to end from the Patriots as they easily overcame their opponents as 21 points in the third quarter was the massive difference in the contest, with the Colts unable to stifle New England Quarterback Tom Brady and the offence. The start saw both sides going scoreless on their opening drives in the game, but when the Patriots punted away possession to the Colts for the first time, it saw Josh Cribbs seemingly to lose the flight of the ball and had it bounce off his helmet right into the path of Brandon Bolden who gathered up the ball for a fumble recovery. 

LeGarrete Blount then ran in for a short gain to give the New England side the early lead in the game, this was after their opponents had suffered from dropped catches, of which they were all wide open but just failed to take them cleanly. On a 2nd & Goal attempt for the Patriots, it saw Tom Brady throw a short pass towards James Develin at the 1 yard line and he went over for the touchdown to see the home side move into a 14-0 lead after the opening quarter of play.  Moving in the Second quarter and a Tom Brady throw towards Rob Gronkowski saw it was picked off by D`Qwell Jackson and he saved the Colts from going further behind. Indianapolis then came agonisingly close to scoring a touchdown themselves, when Quarterback Andrew Luck threw a pass to Coby Fleener and as he ran towards the end zone the Colts man then tried to stretch out towards the line and saw him losing his grip on the ball and fumbled it on the 1 yard line.

New England then moved 24-7 ahead, after Nate Solder ran into the end zone for the host and started to see the game slipping away from the clutches of the Indianapolis Colts.  The Patriots offence was carving their opponents defence up with ease, and there was more proof of that, as LeGarrete Blount made a quick dash through the Colts defence to the 10 yard line.  New England then a few plays later saw them on a 3rd & 1, to which Tom Brady thrown to Rob Gronkowski and he managed to make the catch and move the scoreboard onto 31-7 in favour of New England. Darrelle Revis then intercepted an Andrew Luck catch, which put the New England side in great field position to have a chance of another score before the end of the quarter.  With just over 2 minutes of play in the third, it saw Blount once again at the heart of the offense for the Patriots, with the Running Back going to the house to score another touchdown and seal the win for the home team.  

New England had scoring 21 points in the 3rd quarter and was showing off Bill Belichick`s side ruthless aggression in these playoffs, as they killed off any hopes the Colts had of making a comeback and capped it off with a further touchdown in the fourth from LeGarrette Blount, to see the Patriots crowned once more as AFC Champions again. New England will now be looking to make history in Arizona, as they have the chance of being the most successful franchise in the National Football League with victory, as they are currently tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys for the most Superbowl wins as they have 8 Vince Lombardi trophies to their name at Foxboro.

SPEEDWAY: Fricke ‘Three-Peat’ his way to another Aussie 21-title

Max Fricke made it three successive Australian under-21 titles in a row at Kurri Kurri Speedway in NSW this past Saturday evening, as the Victoria rider was made to work hard for his victory yet again, in what was an exciting meeting overall.  It saw Fricke beating the NSW (New South Wales) duo of Brady Kurtz and Jack Holder the NSW under-21 champion in the final, to see the former Edinburgh Monarch notch up his third crown in a row.

In the qualifying races it saw the current holder Max Fricke taking the meetings opening race ahead of Jye Etheridge. Jack Holder took a race win in his first outing after a rerun, while Brady Kurtz had to fend off from an impressive display by Josh Pickering to see him win in heat 4. Pickering had only just completed his first speedway season in his career and did well on his debut in the Australian Under-21 final scoring 11 points. The following race saw Jye Etheridge and Pickering have a great battle, to which was close to a being a dead heat but Etheridge was adjudged to have just won on the line.

Heat 7 saw Jake Allen take the spoils ahead of Cooper Riordan and Jack Holder, as Allen made up for a third place in his opening ride. Max Fricke won his second ride comfortably, while Tyler King, Jordan Stewart and Dale Borlase all had a good battle for the minor places. Heat 9 saw a nasty incident involving Jye Etheridge, to which he took a tumble on the third bend and saw him withdrawn from the meeting suffering with a heavy concussion from the fall.
Heat 12 saw another brilliant race, this time involving Fricke and Holder to which saw Holder leading the champion round for over 3 laps of the race, before Fricke got by Holder to take the race win. Holder then took the next heat in the fourth round of races, as he beat fellow New South Wales racer in Brady Kurtz for the win.

Josh Pickering then saw him score his first race win of the night in heat 14, with a couple races later seeing Jake Allen beat Max Fricke for the first time in the meeting, to see the Brisbane native score his third race in a row. Heat 17 saw Allen make it 4 wins out of 5 in the next round of races as he secured a bye through to the A Final, while Pickering won his race to take his place along with Jack Holder in the B Final. Brady Kurtz got the better of Fricke in the final race of the 20 qualifying heats, as he joined Fricke and Allen as the top 3 riders who automatically go through to the A Final.

The B final saw Jack Holder, Josh Pickering, Cooper Riordan and Tyler King contesting a place in the grand final and saw Holder take the race win and see him in the lineup against the other big guns in the climax to the championship. The final as you would expect was one of nervousness and a tense atmosphere, with neither rider giving an inch to the other three in the race and so saw them having to re run the A Final three times before crowning the 2015 champion.  At the first time of asking it saw Jack Holder hitting the deck on the first bend and saw all four back for a re run with first bend bunching called, in the second attempt it saw Jake Allen taking Max Fricke to the fence on the 2nd bend and had both riders falling off and led to the referee deeming Allen as the cause of the stoppage, which had him running to the starting line and discuss with the referee the exclusion. On the third attempt of trying to run the A Final, it saw a three way battle to see would be the Australian under-21 champion for 2015.

As the tapes flew up, it saw all three racers battling it out with the proverbial blanket being able to be cover the combatants and saw Max Fricke just edge out Jack Holder in a thrilling finale to meeting and had the youngster from Victoria once again retain his under-21 crown, for a third successive year in a row. The victory sees the recently signed Belle Vue Aces man claim his third title and moves him to within one of the former four-time Australian under-21 champion and also an ex World champion in Poole Pirates rider Chris Holder.

Chris Holder who is the older brother of Jack who rode in the meeting, saw the Grand Prix star presenting the trophy to Fricke and said afterwards “I`m a little nervous that my record might be equalled or beaten” as the Victoria rider still has two years to be able to compete in the competition before he is ineligible and would be a good bet to make it four next year, but the standard of young Australian riders is getting better

Fricke was quoted afterwards saying “It hasn’t got any easier to win (the title) everyone is getting better each year”. “After the fall I jumped on my spare bike and thankfully it worked out well.”

Meanwhile Josh Pickering, who was one of the standout riders in the meeting, said of his debut “People tell me I should be pleased with my first season, but I’m competitive. Every time I get on a bike in a race I want to win and I was disappointed I didn’t make the A-final,”


1. Jye Etheridge………..2,3,F Withdrawn = 5

2. Jack Fallon………….1,1,1,2,2 = 7

3. Arthur Sissis………..0,0,X,1,0 = 1

4. Max Fricke………….3,3,3,2,2 = 13 

5. Zaine Kennedy………..1,1,0,3,1 = 6

6. Robert Medson……….2,2,2,1,1 = 8

7. Jack Holder…………3,1,2,3,3 = 12 Second 

8. Dale Borlase………..0,0,2,1,2 = 5

9. Tyson Snow………….2,0,1,0,1 = 4

10 Jake Mitchell……….0,0,0,0,1 = 1

11 Cooper Riordan………3,2,3,0,0 = 8

12 Tyler King………….1,2,2,1,2 = 8

13 Josh Pickering………2,2,1,3,3 = 11

14 Brady Kurtz…………3,3,3,2,3 = 14 Third 

15 Jake Allen………….1,3,3,3,3 = 13 Fourth

16 Jordan Stewart………0,1,1,2,0 = 4


Res Karl Lawler………. 0,0

Res Matthew Flay……….0




Ice Hockey: Tigers & Cats add to Phoenix woes




Manchester Phoenix        3          Telford Tigers   5

A nightmare weekend for the Manchester Phoenix saw the EPL champions’ weekend consisting of losing two players to see their bench getting even shorter. There was also some inept officiating which led to a controversial goal being awarded but the Phoenix battled on and went down fighting showing their true championship spirit against the Swindon Wildcats and champions-elect in the (Telford) Tigers. 

After a 4-2 loss down in Wiltshire to their bogey side Swindon on Saturday night, we saw the Phoenix up against the Tigers the following evening. Phoenix came into the match missing defensive duo Captain Luke Boothroyd with a long term injury and Joe Graham, who had suffered a shoulder injury in the Wildcats game the previous night. There was some good news for the Phoenix as Jacob Corson-Heron dressed for the game following his fractured jaw at Telford a couple weeks back.

The Tigers, who have dominated the league with an iron fist this season, rolled into Altrincham for which they probably expected a routine win due to the crippling injury crisis that has plagued the Phoenix in recent weeks. What the Tigers hadn’t counted on was that the Phoenix hadn’t read the script and shocked their opponents with their battling qualities and never say die attitude, which frustrated the Tigers throughout the game.

Phoenix played a smart game against the league leaders and saw their plan in the first half of the period at least working out for them.  With Jonathon Weaver sitting in the penalty box for the Tigers, the home side scored the opening goal of the game on a power play, with a Robin Kovar wrist shot beating Tom Murdy in the visitor’s goal and gave the Phoenix a 1-0 lead at 3.31 with Frankie Bakrlik assisting on the opener.

Tigers were knocking continually on the Phoenix door and saw Steve Fone on top form to stop the wave of attacks on his goal and the hosts stood firm against a strong Tigers forward line. Unfortunately for the home side they just couldn’t keep those pesky Tigers out for long. After Johan Burlin picked up a needless interference call this gave the Tigers an extra man advantage. They drew level through a Nathan Salem strike at 12.17 with Rick Plant and Sam Zajac getting credited with the assists on the goal. At 14.18 the visitors then took the lead in the match with a Biashoslav Novak effort while unmarked to tap home at the back post to see Tigers go 2-1 up.   After one period of hockey the Phoenix did well to subdue their opponents and stopped their rivals taking over the game as was expected. The start of the second period saw a blow to Phoenix as they lost the services of Czech forward Michal Psurny through illness and another player was added to the injury list.

Phoenix came out a bit brighter at the start of the second period and saw them have a half chance with Tigers netminder Tom Murdy making a stop to deny an equaliser for the home side. Phoenix did tie the game up at 2-2 and the goal came from an unlikely source in defenceman James Neil. A pass from the side of the net by player-coach Tony Hand saw the Nottingham-born player put in at the far side to net his first of the season and make the game level at 25.27. With the game getting tighter and some calls on both sides getting missed by the officials,   Frankie Bakrlik then got penalised for a Hooking call at 30-35 and gave the Tigers another power play opportunity. Tigers then made it two from two on the power plays, though their third goal had more than a degree of good fortune about it.

Linesman Carrington could have had the Phoenix supporters asking if he`d been to Specsavers as he made an absolute howler of epic proportions for the Tigers third. A Tiger’s player was struggling to get back onside and tried “stretching” a skate to the blue line, but was unable to reach and ended up a good two feet from the line.  Phoenix fans were right to be furious with the missed call as with play continuing and a scramble around the nets, Sam Zajac threw the puck back across goal and saw Steve Fone helplessly divert it into his own nets for a 3-2 lead at 31.48 and drew massive boos from the Manchester crowd who were up in arms.

The home fans felt the decisions were going more against the Phoenix and more in favour of their opponents. With the Phoenix fans urging their team with fantastic support throughout the whole game, there were two incidents both involving Rupert Quiney and Ben Wood. Firstly, Quiney put in a heavy hit on Wood by the boards which looked to be a check to the head, but Wood got on with it and proceeded to answer back emphatically with one of the biggest centre ice hits seen for many a years at the Altrincham Ice dome and had the building rocking. That hit got the fans going in the stands and even drew approval from some of the Tigers players themselves on the bench, as the check at centre ice was a good clean, heavy hit and had Quiney returning to the bench

With the final period left to play and the score separated by only one goal, the Phoenix seemed to draw some kind of momentum from keeping it close. Despite Tigers missing one man from their line-up that has scored more hat tricks against Manchester than anyone else this season in Jason Silverthorn, Tigers didn’t have the same threat as in previous games against Phoenix.

Tigers then opened up a two goal cushion on their hosts, when former Phoenix man Scott McKenzie was set up by another ex Manchester player in Joe Miller and his pass found McKenzie open and he found the twine to make it 4-2 to the visitors at 41-18, which looked like the goal that would kill off any hint of a comeback in the match at all for Phoenix. The hosts though battled valiantly with their short bench to keep pace with a fresher and powerful Tigers side but it was evident that tiredness had got to a couple of players by the third period.

Rick Plant then decided he wanted to get to know James Archer that little bit better. After a hit on Archer by the boards, this then led to the Phoenix man shoving him back and Plant then tried to pull the Phoenix player’s shirt off his back. This saw him sitting out a penalty for Roughing. Not long after the Rick Plant penalty had ended, Phoenix then pulled a goal back through Jack Watkins after the young forward managed to flick the puck past Murdy into the back of the net to bring them within one goal of tying the game at 50.55 with James Archer and Shaun Thompson assisting.

Manchester then had the momentum in their favour and the Tigers looked rattled following the goal and it seemed like Phoenix had gotten a second wind. However the wind was soon taken out of their proverbial sails, as a tired clearance by James Neil saw the puck fall to Joe Miller and the forward finished it off to see the Tigers move 5-3 ahead at 53.30 and left Neil devastated with the error and mixed in with tiredness, saw him fall to the ice.  Phoenix tried to force one more goal scoring attempt, but the well ran dry and the victorious Tigers side took the two points on offer but knew they had fought a tougher battle than the previous two meetings with the Phoenix. 

After the game Tony Hand gave his thoughts about the game and said:

I could not be more proud of the lads tonight. They gave their all and worked so hard all evening. Credit to Tigers, they are a good side and used their bench to good effect all game. We will take positives from this game and put some good practice in during the week in preparation for the Bison and Steeldogs games.


Continue reading “Ice Hockey: Tigers & Cats add to Phoenix woes”

RUGBY: ‘CIPS’ Magic Helps Sale lower the Saints Halo



                          SALE SHARKS            20        NORTHAMPTON SAINTS   7


Sale snapped a 2 game losing streak on Saturday afternoon as the Sharks dismantled the league leaders and reigning Aviva Premiership champions the Northampton Saints 20-7 in what was a game that saw the home side bully their opponents throughout at the AJ Bell Stadium and earn a famous win.  It saw also a battle of the England fly-half on offer to in the match up, with Saints Stephen Myler up against the Sharks Danny Cipriani with England head coach Stuart Lancaster sitting in the stands, as he cast an eye over the two men ahead of his selection for the England squad in the 6 Nations next month. 


The start of the match saw the Saints putting the home side under some early pressure and needed Sale to be on their metal to hold firm in defence, with attacks by the champions coming early on.   Sale who in their last home game was edged out in a heartbreaking loss to fellow playoff chasers the Leicester Tigers saw this game as another way to test themselves against the best in the league.


Cipriani was running the game for the home side, to which saw the fly half producing some good kicks into dangerous areas, including one which saw him gain at least 40 metres with a free kick that just managed to go over the Northampton player head and bounce 5 metres away from the Saints try line.


Play then saw the hosts going to close to the line with Mike Haley going close to give them the lead and then Magnus Lund looked like he was going to go over for the Sharks but he was hauled down agonisingly close and saw referee Matthew Carley, bring play back for a penalty to which Danny Cipriani despatched of between the uprights for a 3-0 lead after 9 minutes of play. 


Another piece of ill-discipline by the Saints saw Cipriani convert on another penalty for the hosts and he doubled the lead for the Sharks at 6-0 and had the visitors still trying to find some way back into this contest, as the Champions were looking more like chumps in the game.  From the restart both sides traded kicks and led to a ball being held up due to the gusty conditions in Salford and the Northampton backs misjudged the ball and knocked on when coming under pressure from a stern Shark defence.


Will Addison nearly scored a lovely inventive try for the Sharks, when a dabbed kick in behind the Saints back line led to Addison chasing the tantalising ball heading for the corner but saw it just bounce off the corner padding and out of play.  The visitors were lacking anything in the way of creativity and they found the Sharks defence extremely difficult to break down and were seemingly low on ideas too.


Danny Cipriani on the other hand was creating all sorts of things for his side, whether it was little blindside passes that found gaps in the Northampton defence or it was kicks in behind the back line it must have given England coach Stuart Lancaster some food for thought in his decision making to possibly include the maverick fly half in his squad at the very least. 


This season the Sale Sharks driving maul at set pieces has been their biggest weapon in their arsenal and that was used to effect once again in this contest, with the forwards causing many problems for their opposite numbers and drove them back to the point of coming close to almost scoring a try as the Saints pack was unable to deal with the power the Sale side had and when Josh Beaumont went over the referee adjudge it to be held up, much to Beaumont`s frustration.



Sam Dickinson then got shown the yellow card for an illegal charge on Magnus Lund which saw the Sharks player receiving treatment from it and had the Saints down to 14 men for the duration of the first half.  Sale forced a penalty against the Saints pack and from their lineout which was perfection throughout the match and saw them record a perfect 24 lineout wins out of 24 and from one of those lineout wins it produced a driving maul by Sale, which ended with Eifion Lewis-Roberts going over for a try in the 29th minute to see the home side lead with Danny Cipriani adding the two extras for a 13-0 score line. 


Cipriani once again was pulling the strings for the hosts and saw him play a lovely delayed pass to Sami Leota and the Samoan International dashed into the gap and needed a well timed tackle by the Saints to stop him galloping forwards and saw Stephen Myler clear away the danger.  Northampton had the final chance of the half as they looked to try grab a score before the break, but they couldn`t get anything going in the contest and a knock on while in a good position summed up their  match.


In the second half it saw Northampton trying to launch an early fightback to get back in the game, but just like the first forty the Sharks defence repelled all advances by the Saints and solid work by the home side kept them out. Their tough back line was evident and included a crunching tackle by Will Addison on George Pisi which sent the Saints man flying and drew a penalty from the play for not releasing the ball. 


Calum Clark then got shown the 2nd Yellow card for the visitors in the game in the 57th minute, to which the Sharks forwards now sensed blood at the lineout and drove onwards in their devastating driving maul and had Sale Captain Dan Braid put the ball down to extend the lead to 18-0 for the home team with Cipriani adding the extras.



Former Shark Luther Burrell tried to get his side going with a run, but unluckily for him he knocked on and saw another disappointing Northampton attack come to nothing.  In the 65th minute the Saints did eventually get some points on the board, as Teimana Harrison wriggled his way over the try line to score and give the travelling East Midlands fans something to cheer. Northampton then had a mini purple patch in the game, as they created a couple of chances and were clearly buoyed by that try.


Sale managed to grab control right back and saw them just take full advantage of a poor Northampton side and saw Danny Cipriani do his cause to be selected for England no harm as the England coach must have been impressed with his performance, as he was replaced with just over 10 minute left to play and got a standing ovation by the Sharks faithful.  It also saw the introduction of new signing TJ Ioane come on for the final 11 minutes and he put himself around a bit on debut and looks a good signing for the Sharks too.


Sale did come under some late pressure at the back end of the game and needed their defence to hold out, with a late Saints rally and included a phrases in double digits after the 80 minutes were up to where the home side quelled their last attacks before a knock on brought the game to a close and the Sharks recorded a famous win over their former coach Jim Mallinder and his league champions.


Northampton it was a case of a bad day at the office and one to quickly draw a line under and forget about as their lineouts were abysmal, their attacks looked toothless and lacked any purpose and they will be glad they still hold top place after the is defeat.
Sale despite the win dropped a place in the table to 8th position and will look to use their new found confidence in their final European Cup group match at home next weekend  against Clermont, as the Sharks can still have a say as to who qualifies in the group despite being out of the tournament.

ICE HOCKEY: Manchester Dish Out Revenge On Steeldogs



Manchester Phoenix  8               Sheffield Steeldogs 2


Manchester Phoenix completed a First period demolition job on their bitter local rivals the Sheffield Steeldogs on Thursday evening, as the English Premier League champions stunned their foes in their 8-2 victory scoring five goals in the opening period of play to gain sweet revenge over their rivals after their loss in Sheffield this past weekend.

It was only five days ago that the two sides met in Sheffield and on that occasion the Steeldogs won 4-3 in overtime through a Janis Ozolins hat trick, which saw the Phoenix side unable to finish off their opponents despite lead three times in the encounter. This game was the complete opposite and from the first puck drop it was evident and the Phoenix had a much more determined look to them, as they looked to have a lot more bite and intent to their play and that showed for the opening twenty minutes of hockey.


Phoenix spent almost the entire opening five minutes camped inside the Sheffield zone with the Steeldogs finding it extremely difficult to clear the puck from their end of the rink. In previous games against their opponents Manchester have dominated play but luck in front of goals have always gone against them and not got the result they deserved.  This occasion though saw the Phoenix grind their opponents well and truly into the ice and destroy them from the first minute to the last.


All the great work by the home side saw them eventually break the deadlock at 6.43, when a Johan Burlin pass to Shaun Thompson saw the forward picking out Frankie Bakrlik and he fired through the legs of Dalibor Sedlar to give the Phoenix early lead. One became two 33 seconds later, with James Archer and Tony Hand combining to set up Michal Psurny and the Czech forward made it 2-0 and the Phoenix were flying in this ‘Roses’ clash already.

Bobby Chamberlain then made it 3-0 to the hosts at 9.52 after some fabulous team play from James Archer and Tony Hand, led to patience build up by the Phoenix and when Hand spotted the movement of Chamberlain towards the back post it saw the Hull born forward skating unchallenged to bang it into the back of the Steeldogs net and give the home fans another chance to revel in their rivals misery.


Roll on 3 minutes later and the Phoenix added a fourth goal to the scoreboard as this time Jack Watkins struck a one timer past Sedlar to see Manchester embarrassing their foes with goals that was all so clinically taken, and in which the visitors just couldn`t get to grips with their opponents at all.  The game as a contest was over in reality and led to Steeldogs player-coach Andre Payette taking a timeout and gave his side a serious dressing down on the bench over the play.


With the Steeldogs looking to have shored up their defence after the timeout taken, it then saw one more moment of brilliance by the home side and in particular Ben Wood, as the Macclesfield born utility man finished off another tremendous move by the hosts to move the Phoenix 5-0 up. Bobby Chamberlain and Adam Walker between themselves worked well together to see a low pass played into Wood at the front of the net and his back handed effort found twine at 19.43 to see the Phoenix dominant after the first.


After what was a nightmare period for the Sheffield side, it saw them replacing their netminders as Dalibor Sedlar made way for Brad Day and saw them opening their account at 23.07, when Andrew Hirst managed to force the puck in by Declan Ryan after Lloyd Gibson assisted to see them gain a small amount of pride, as that was pretty much all that they had to play for in the game.  

Incredibly the first penalty call of the game came in the second period, where Andre Payette got sent to the penalty box after a Roughing call on Frankie Bakrlik, and 14 seconds later saw the Phoenix forward restoring their five goal cushion as he netted with his second goal of the game with a blast from the blue line on the power play.



Michal Psurny had a couple of efforts for the home side to possibly extending their lead in the game, but the pipe work came to the Steeldogs rescue on more than two occasions in the period an so the score remain as it was.  Just short of the midway point in the game it saw Andre Payette trying to generate a spark in his misfiring team and seen Payette pinning James Archer by the boards and trying everything to get the former Sheffield player engaged in a fight, but in the end he failed to do so and incurred a 2 minute for Holding and a further 10 minute call for Incitement.


James Archer then picked up a ludicrous penalty off Tom Pering for Tripping after Lubomir Korhon and him collided and saw both men crashing into the boards and had both wondering what the call was over as the referee baffled both teams by the call. Sheffield then scored from the extra man advantage, with the hero for the Yorkshire club five days ago in Janis Ozolins netting for the Steeldogs as they scored another consolation goal at 30.49 with assists going to Lee Haywood and Lubomir Korhon for the Yorkshire outfit.


In the third it saw pretty much both sides playing out the final stanza with neither pushing themselves and so had them reserving energy for this weekend. However though the scoring was far from over and saw the Phoenix scoring two fairly quick goals, as James Archer netted goal number 5 on the power play after another Payette penalty and then Joe Graham finished off the Steeldogs scoring from a very tight angle to see him score the 8th and see the Phoenix victorious in their derby clash and avenge their loss. 

Manchester Phoenix:   James Archer 1+4 , Tony Hand 0+3, Bobby Chamberlain 1+2, Frankie Bakrlik 2+0 ,Michal Psurny 1+1, Ben Wood 1+0, Adam Walker 0+1,  Joe Graham 1+0, Johan Burlin 0+1, Robin Kovar 0+1, Shaun Thompson 0+1
Sheffield Steeldogs:  Andrew Hirst 1+0, Janis Ozolins 1+0, Lloyd Gibson 0+1, Lubomir Korhon 0+1, Lee Haywood 0+1
MAN:   Declan Ryan  26 (2)                       SHEFF:   Dalibor Sedlar 21 (5),  Brad Day 39 (3)


ICE HOCKEY: Thompson Inspires Phoenix Win





Sunday night saw the Manchester Phoenix battle back twice in the game as Shaun Thompson scored a vital double in the game to help take the game to an overtime period before the home side won in a shootout 4-3, with James Archer and finally Adam Walker netting the winning penalty to see the Phoenix yet again defeat the Bison from a losing position. Manchester was coming off the back of a disappointing 4-3 loss the night before in Sheffield, in which saw the Phoenix leading on three occasions before the Steeldogs struck back everytime after two strikes by Frankie Bakrlik and a goal by Joe Graham, that was till Janis Ozolins completed his hat trick to sink the Phoenix in overtime.

It saw a pretty torrid opening twelve minutes to the first period by the home side, as they lacked any kind of edge to their play and despite two big hits by Ben Wood the Phoenix lacked bite or anything to stir the home supporters, to which the Bison in fairness didn`t play that well but they were just more clinical when it came to shooting. There was a bizarre occurrence in the first 18 seconds of the contest, when Frankie Bakrlik shot beat the netminder and saw the puck go near the goal line and saw the red light come on and had Bison netminder Dean Skinns fuming over the decision by the match official to award it. After a discussion it was deemed that the puck had never crossed the line and saw the start of the referee making poor decision making in the match.

Basingstoke took the lead at 7.12 in the game, when some clear calls going missing on both sides and then saw Joe Graham penalised when reaching out for the puck saw a Bison player go to ground and had Paul Brooks who was wearing the armbands gave a poor call for Tripping and from the resulting power play saw the Bison score. Joe Rand had a chance to score seconds prior to the goal, but Stephen Fone in the Phoenix nets down made the initial stop from Rand effort but when the red light flashed for a goal and went off it saw Andrew Melachrino put home the rebound to make sure it was a goal and saw no complaints from the Phoenix side over the goal.

Manchester had a large majority of possession in the first period, but they just never looked like scoring as Doug Sheppard side once again demonstrated their ability to frustrate the opposition and was showing off how well drilled Sheppard had his men. The Phoenix forwards looked toothless and unable to get any type of meaningful shots off on Dean Skinns and saw the visitors snuffing off the danger and keeping the home side to the outside. Bison then doubled their lead at 11.56 when Doug Sheppard netted at the front of the net to see the visitors go 2-0 up and looked on course to go onto victory. The game did have a very similar pattern to the match earlier in the season, when the Bison did the same scoring two early goals before being blown away later in the game, so was history going to repeat itself.

Player-coach for the Bison in Doug Sheppard put his side in good stead for the rest of the game as him scoring the second so soon after the first, had the Hampshire outfit on top in the game and saw Manchester player-coach Tony Hand calling a time out and venting his anger towards his players and giving a few home truths to his side in the thirty-seconds he had to force their way back into the game. Manchester marginally improved towards the end of the period, but they hardly shown anything that made you think they would get back into the contest at all after the opening twenty minutes of play.

Second period brought a better response from the home side, to which they had a bit more purpose to their play in the middle stanza and saw calls that wasn`t going the way in the first not getting some favourable calls for the Phoenix. It saw an unsuccessful power play earlier in the period with Manchester given another opportunity to score after Joe Baird was guilty of tripping up Bakrlik at mid ice and was called weirdly given a penalty for Slashing. The power play unit came back out soon after and saw Phoenix get back in the game after some work from Shaun Thompson and Frankie Bakrlik, saw the Czech forward shot from the blue line diverted in off fellow Czech mate Robin Kovar stick and so had the hosts trailing by a single goal at 28.18. Basingstoke found themselves a man down again, when Declan Balmer headed to the box for a Boarding call but the better efforts came the way for the opposition as twice the Bison came close to scoring, but Fone came up big for the Phoenix making two massive important stops and had the Manchester netminder showing signs of him getting back to form after injuries of late.

Bakrlik then made the trip to the penalty box for the hosts after he collected a Interference call that was unlucky to be called on, as a Bison player grabbed the Manchester player stick and when Bakrlik was skating down the centre of the ice the Bison player fell to the ice while still clutching the stick of the Czech man and the referee penalised the Czech forward who was extremely unimpressed with the call. At 39.56 it saw the score line tied up with just four seconds of the period left to go, as Ben Wood sent a pass towards Bakrlik and had Shaun Thompson then gather the puck and make a nice little move on a Basingstoke defenseman in the Bison zone to leave him one on one with Skinns and then the puck found it`s way in the net for a 2-2 game and made it level for the start of the third period.

With the final period starting off on a level keel, it had both teams creating chances and needing the goaltenders to be focused on their game, with Skinns and Fone playing very well indeed. Midway through the third there was a collision just outside the Bison zone, in which Jack Watkins accidently caught Vantroba with a stray knee and sent the Basingstoke Import down to the ice for a couple of minutes as the player was in distress from the collision. Vantroba managed gather himself together and had Watkins accepting his wrong doing, and had the opponents understanding that it was purely accidental and saw the import helped to the team bench to be checked over.

The power play lasted just ten seconds as Tomas Karpov netted the third for the Bison, with assists credited to Joe Greener & Joe Rand on the go ahead goal at 50.20 to see the visitors lead 3-2. Time was running out on the home side to try and draw level in the contest and when pushing forward towards the two minute warning, it saw Shaun Thompson at the back post put home a loose puck at 57.31 and then took a hit from behind on the play and left him down on the ice for a minute and was slow getting up after contact. It saw from then on the game become an extended overtime period in which neither side wanted to give up a late goal as time ticked down. With 60 mins of hockey played it saw the game head into an extra period of hockey and with both sides looking like playing for a point, Robin Kovar was then caught out on a line change for the home side and saw the referee penalise the hosts for Too Many Men, much to the clear annoyance of Tony Hand as he gave Kovar both barrels from the ice towards the bench. Manchester successfully killed off the penalty and saw the game go to a shootout where the remaining point would be decided.

With the game going to a shootout, it saw Basingstoke up first and saw Steve Fone denying Joe Rand while James Archer put home the Phoenix in front with their first penalty to lead 1-0 after the opening round. Ciaran Long stepped for the Bison in the second round of penalties and pulled out a few nice moves to bamboozle Fone and put it home for 1-1. Frantisek Bakrlik then took the second shot for the hosts, but he was denied by Dean Skinns to leave it level heading into the final round of penalties. Tomas Karpov then took the final penalty shot for the visitors and as he tried to go backhand on Fone, it seen Fone keep it out with a pad save and so gave Adam Walker the chance to win the game for Phoenix and he did just that, which his wrist shot beating Skinns stick side to win 2-1 on pens and 4-3 overall to claim the extra point on offer.

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