Sledge Hockey: Stephens & Huskies run riot as they ‘MUSH’ away to victory

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Stephens nets goal number Six

Stephens nets goal number Six for Cardiff

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Manchester Phoenix 1 – 7 Cardiff Huskies 

 

This past Saturday saw the Manchester Phoenix welcoming the Cardiff Huskies to the Altrincham ice dome, in what was a reverse fixture to the opening match of the league season in which on that occasion the Phoenix came out 4-2 victors in that game and looked to build upon that win. Their opponents had picked up a stunning result in their previous game, thrashing the League and Playoff winners the Peterborough Phantoms 6-2 so both teams had momentum coming into the contest.

From the drop of the first puck, it was very clear that the visitors wanted to get revenge for their earlier defeat in the league against the Phoenix, and saw the Welsh side come the much brighter team. The Huskies came close with a couple of half chances for Scotty Turner as the forward almost gave his side an early lead in the game.

Manchester seemed to be lacking match sharpness compared to their visitors, as Phoenix hadn’t played since their opening day win and compared to the Huskies it showed. With the game ticking along it saw a bit of a scrappy period with not much really in the way of goal mouth action or shots by either side. Cardiff though threw the puck on goal a fair few times and hoping for a rebound, but Steve Midghall in the Phoenix nets was always comfortable with dealing with the shots and kept the game scoreless.

Manchester then created a glorious chance against the run of play, when duo Karl Nicholson and Anthony Booth broke away up ice on a 2 on 1 for the home side but Huskies Netminder Han O’ Connor made a good stop at her near post to deny the Phoenix and avoided what would have been a sucker punch for the away side.

Nathan Stephens then came even closer for the away side but Midghall was to the rescue once more for home side as he made yet another good stop off the forwards, but you always thought it was a matter of time before they broke through.  Manchester then got called for too many men at 9.17 in the game and that saw them successively kill off the penalty with ease after their opponents couldn`t make much use of the extra man advantage.

As we headed towards the end of the opening period it saw Cardiff deservedly taking the lead in the game through Nathan Stephens at 14.15 with Tim James and Scotty Turner both picking up assists to see the Huskies go 1-0 up after end of the first period. Moving to the second period and it saw a period to forget for the home team, as the Phoenix crumble under severe pressure by their visitors.

The nightmare period started just after two minutes in to it when Stephens slalomed his way past the Phoenix players before firing at the near post and beating Steve Midghall all ends up to double the lead for the Huskies at 16.30, with the assist going to Paul Furber. Twenty-Six seconds later and the score moved onto 3-0 for Cardiff after Scotty Turner fired high over the netminder and the static home defence to see the home side in disarray and the travelling side taking the game well and truly away from their hosts.

Cardiff was tearing the home side apart with some precise crisp passing and attacking while it saw the home side left chasing shadows for the majority of the time and had certain players in the Huskies side playing superbly and running the Phoenix players ragged. If the visitors passing and attacks could be referred to as smooth as an Aston Martin, then the Phoenix would have to be the equivalent of an old banger.

Cardiff’s movement and speed was very much key to their fourth goal, after it led to a lovely flowing Huskies move and was finished off by an Alex Weaver strike, with Russell Wiley getting the assist at 19.10. Manchester finally got on the scoreboard at 22.43, when Karl Nicholson assisted Anthony Booth to where Booth put it past Han O’Connor to end the Huskies shutout hopes and give their fans something to cheer.

Phoenix was to be tortured even more by Stephens as the Welshman was all over the ice and didn’t let up once in the game, to which he nearly bagged himself a hat trick but Steve Midghall was yet again equal to him and made a good save off him. Stephens though wasn`t going to be denied twice and saw him bury his effort in the back of the Manchester net at 27.35 to complete his hat trick and move the score line to 5-1 for the Huskies and the score made grim reading for a sorry Phoenix side.

Play moved into the third and final period of the match to which the Huskies still continued to dominate play and created more chance in the process. Manchester seemed to be in a damaged limitations exercise where the hosts were just unable to get anything going at all against a very well drilled and speedy Cardiff outfit.

Cardiff looked in search for more goals and at 35.26 they netted goal number six through Nathan Stephens fourth of the game, to see the visitors adding to their advantage. Play got far more chippy towards the end of the match with some hits coming in with a touch of frustration playing a hand in them too.

Both sides decided to continue on with their arguments and heated discussions and saw handbags moments later with a couple of punches thrown in the scrum.  The result was both teams losing a man for two minutes over the incident with Karl Nicholson from Manchester and Andy Swinfen from Cardiff, both sitting it out on the naughty step for roughing.

The Huskies completed the scoring in the final five seconds of the game and of course it had to come from Nathan Stephens where the forward grabbed his fifth goal of the game and seventh for the visitors. The result was a thrashing for the Phoenix but saw a near complete and terrific performance by the away side from South Wales.

Manchester will look to draw a line under this game and move onto their next game in the league, where they`ll look to bounce back against a tough Kingston Kestrels team and get back to winning ways.

MAN OF THE MATCH: STEVE Midghall – Manchester Phoenix

Shots on Goal:

Steve Midghall – Phoenix  faced 31

Han O’Connor – Huskies faced  6

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ICE HOCKEY: Wood Returns for the Phoenix

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Ben Wood PHOTO: Richard Amor Allan  https://flic.kr/p/pAz53p

Manchester Phoenix team building saw them adding another solid foundation to their ranks already ahead of the new season, with the re-signing of defenseman and fan-favorite at the club in Ben Wood. The 27-year old D-man will be icing in his 8th successive season with the Phoenix and is looking forward to the challenge ahead of hoping to bring silverware to the club next year, after they missed out narrowly this past year.

The Macclesfield-born defenseman was given the captaincy towards the second half of the season, after the Phoenix lost the services of Luke Boothroyd for the season through a hand injury that he suffered and saw him being promoted from assistant captain to wearing the ‘C’.

His contribution as captain saw him lead his side to two finals, where a strong Telford Tigers outfit beat the Phoenix in the British Challenge cup final and that was soon followed up by a couple of incredible team performances that helped Manchester reach the Playoffs weekend and also reaching the final itself, before the Phoenix would eventually lose out to the Peterborough Phantoms in the final. However it showed the role didn’t over-raw him at all, and if anything it improved his game all round with the extra responsibilities with play and marshaling the team.

Wood though did admit that last season personally for him, was the toughest campaign that the Phoenix man had ever played in, but at the same time he felt it was also the most enjoyable one that he had experienced in his career to date. With Manchester being down a defenseman for the best part of the the season, Wood was more than happy to be getting the extra ice time in games and touched upon the added physical element he brought his game a fair bit last term.

He chuckled ‘perhaps the extra ice time brought out the aggression in me’. The Phoenix man also credited former NHLer and Phoenix man defenseman Rob Schnabel for praise, with the Czech man helping him bringing his game on and said that the advice he gave him on things he took on board and added it into his style of play last year. One memorable moment that illustrated his new found physical play, was when he put in a massive mid ice hit on Rupert Quinney from Telford and drew a huge reaction from everyone in the rink.

Looking ahead to the new season and the side so far, Wood was glad to be seeing a good core of the team back with the Phoenix, notably James Archer, Jacob Corson-Heron, James Neil, Stephen Fone and Robin Kovar all signing up once again to don the Phoenix colours when the season starts in September.

Manchester will start life too without the influences of head coach Tony Hand out on the ice, after the legendary British forward hung up the skates for standing behind the bench after a long and successful career. The returnee though thinks that Hand will put together another good squad for the new season, especially after bringing back the hometown boy the GB International Mark Thomas from the Sheffield Steelers, after Thomas started his career with the Phoenix when they first iced back in 2003

CRICKET: Lancashire duo Croft & Edwards star in Dramatic Last-Ball Win

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 Lancs Lightning Captain Steven Croft celebrates victory   Pic: Manchester evening news

Steven Croft played a Captain’s inning for his Lancashire Lightning side at the Emirates Old Trafford Friday night. With the All-rounder smashing an unbeaten 70 with him scoring the winning runs with a last ball four, that culminating in a opening victory in their Natwest T20 Blast campaign after bad weather disrupted the Lightning’s 5 Wickets victory over the

Croft was the saviour for the Red Rose side after his unbeaten knock of 70 in 39 balls, while wicketkeeper Alex Davie contributed to as the two Lightning men helped the home side recover with a few early wicket going down. Play was cut down to a 15 overs a side game, after the rain stopped play midway through the Leicestershire innings and saw the away side come back out after the delay to bat on for another three more  overs to complete their innings.

Leicestershire came out on fire from the start and with the threatening clouds above looking ominous, it had the Foxes trying to get a fast tempo to their inning and get right into the Lightning attack from the very beginning. Leicestershire’s opening batsmen of Ned Eckersley and Mark Cosgrove laid the foundations of which to build upon, after moving 21-0 after two overs gone and was gifted runs by the home bowlers in which was some of the deliveries were quite appalling.  

Tom Bailey made the breakthrough for the hosts in the third over of play, with the capture of Foxes captain Mark Cosgrove departing for 12, after he edged behind to the gloves of Alex Davies. Leicestershire was smashing their opponents all over the ground in the following two overs, with some wayward bowling and brilliant batting combined that put the Foxes in a dominating position in the early stages of the game. 

Lancashire took their second wicket of the match with Stand-in captain Steven Croft getting Ned Eckersley out for 29, with Karl Brown taking the catch. The hosts seemed too had stem the runs being conceded and looked to have turned the corner in the game. However the Rain then started to fall around the ground but wasn`t heavy enough to go off and saw the partnership of Grant Elliott and Kevin O’Brien starting to exert pressure a bit upon the bowlers, with them thinking about posting as good of a score, should they go off due to the weather.

With 11.2 overs gone, the umpires decided that the rain was heavy enough to call a halt to proceedings and so the players exited the field and waited for this band of rain to pass. Due to time lost in the match, due to the weather delay, officials decided to make it a 15 overs matcht and with the rain subsiding it brought the players back out on the field and had the Foxes play out their remaining innings.

When play resumed, it saw the Foxes not looking as dangerous as they were prior to the rain and in truth swung momentum very much to the home side. Leicestershire was in a position to take the game well and truly out of sight of the Lightning, but the rain seemed to be the key factor in the game and broke the Foxes flow and gave Lancs a chance to regroup during the delay.

Leicestershire did try to get back in to their free-flowing batting that saw them playing like they had before the rain came down, but instead saw them rushing their shots and wasn’t striking the ball as cleanly as they had been doing at the start. Stephen Parry picked up the next Foxes wicket, when Grant Elliott tried to hit a six but picked out South African Ashwell Prince by the ropes and he took the catch and saw Elliott head to the dugout for 17.

Lancashire’s new signing in the winter from Surrey in George Edwards saw him finding some rhythm, with the fast bowler taking two important wickets of firstly Kevin O’Brien for 47 and then Rob Taylor with a two ball duck. The Foxes in the next over threw the bat and saw Tom Bailey giving up 15 runs in the penultimate over, to see the East Midlands side moving onto 126-5 with one over left to bowl. 

Edwards bowled his third and final over of the innings and saw the 22-year old start very well at the death, as the medium pace man started off with two dot balls. His third ball however, was struck for a four and then at the end of his over he got two in two balls, with firstly CJ McKay being caught out by Alviro Petersen for 10 near the boundary rope and then final ball of the innings had Tom Wells smash a ball up in the air and was collected safely by Ashwell Prince for 10 as well, to see the young bowler finish with figures of 4-32. The Foxes posted a good score of 131-6 after their 15 overs and looked doable if not also a tough score to chase as well.

With the Duckworth and Lewis method being put to use, it meant that Lightning was set a total of 140 runs for victory from 90 balls in their 15 overs. Lancashire started off well despite the loss of Ashwell Prince for just 8 runs, with the Lightning level with the Foxes after two overs bowled, but having that possibly important wicket against costing them maybe as they was 21-1. James Sykes much like Ben Raine in the previous over, saw him smashed for 12 runs and looked like the Lightning would chase this target down easier than first thought.

The Foxes though had other ideas and had Clint McKay bowl a superb over to help his side out and saw him giving up only three runs in the third over. Roy Taylor then got the wicket of Liam Livingstone for 15 with Tom Wells making the catch after Livingstone top edged it in the air and had the Lightning in trouble at 36-3. Alviro Petersen then followed soon after for 10, as he attempted a shot down the ground and got it horribly wrong and left the home side in bother at 57-4 after 7.1 overs.

Lancashire found it hard to make inroads on the Leicestershire score, and despite the efforts of the two out in the middle it wasn`t helping their cause much.  Alex Davies and Steven Croft tried to put on a rescue attempt for the Lightning, as with two good overs from them both it started to help steady the ship and gave them a faint sniff of coming back in the contest. With the Foxes doing extremely well in the field to cut off important boundaries by Lancashire, it saw the game heading to the crunch part of the game now and had the Lightning needing 37 runs from the remaining 18 balls left to see them home.

In the 13th over, it saw Croft smash the opening two deliveries for fours to the boundary and with Davies and his captain getting singles and a couple of two’s in the over, it saw the scoreboard still ticking along and giving the home side hope. With the proverbial squeaky bum time now approaching, it saw the Foxes almost losing their way and the Lightning on the front foot with two overs to go in the game. Another big over saw young Alex Davies play a scoop shot over the slips cordon and run away for four that was before Croft struck one to the ropes to leave the game still on a knife edge.

The last over saw the Lightning needing 10 more runs for victory and it saw a bit of a blow for the hosts in the first ball, when Davies was run out for 24 as the Lancashire batsmen pushed for runs in the final over. Jordan Clark then entered proceedings and he was one player that was very handy with the bat last year in this tournament and so the home crowd hoped he could do a job again. Clark took just a single to put his captain back on strike and saw him given the task of leading his side home to victory.

With deliveries dwindling, it saw Lancashire requiring six more runs off of the last three balls to beat the Foxes. Croft found the gap pass the fielders for a four and saw his side needing 2 more off two balls. Leicestershire took their time and had a conference with captain Mark Cosgrove and bowler Ben Raine discussing their options on what to do for the last two balls. Raine came in and bowled a clever bouncer to Croft, which seemed to give back the away side the advantage and had the Lightning now having to get a run to tie the game or two to win it.

So with the final ball of the game about to be delivered, it saw all the fielders moving up towards play to cut out any possible runs that may happen. Steven Croft though made no mistake and rocketed his shot to the ropes for a four and give the finalist in this tournament last year a five wicket win to start this year’s tournament off and saw the Lancashire man take home the Man of the Match award too.

LEICESTER FOXES : Both taken from ESPN CRICKET.com

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     Lancashire Lightning Scorecard

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Speedway: Aces snatch victory at the death

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BELLE VUE ACES   46      SWINDON ROBINS   44

Belle Vue recorded an unbelievable 46-44 home win on Monday Night with what was literally a last gasp effort that saw the Aces steal victory from the jaws of defeat, in a topsy turvy contest at Kirkmanshulme Lane. In the conclusion to the meeting it saw the Swindon duo of Peter Kildemand and Troy Batchelor gifting Matej Zagar second place in the final race of the night and have the Slovenian GP rider swoop by for a stunning comeback for the Aces when all hope looked lost.

Both sides throughout the meeting seemed to struggled for speed on a track that recently held a stock car event on the circuit and didn’t produce the most entertaining racing of the season, but did make it more of a thinker’s track and intriguing contest. The visiting Robins drew first blood in the opening race after Peter Kildemand and Kyle Howarth secured a 4-2 for the Wiltshire club, that despite Max Fricke doing brilliantly to hold off Howarth on the first lap, which then allowed Matej Zagar through for a shared heat and then saw Zagar shove Fricke out wide and have Morris capitalise for an early lead for the visitors. Swindon increased their lead to six points after heat 3, through the duo of Nick Morris and Troy Bachelor combining to see a maximum race win for a 12-6 score line.

The Aces responded in the following two races, with the returning Craig Cook to Aces line up and Steve Worrall grabbing a 5-1 to close the gap to two points, with Worrall then taking the chequered flag as part of a 4-2 to level the match up at 15 all. Heat 6 saw Swindon come back themselves, where upon a 5-1 maximum through Kildemand and Bachelor had them restoring the lead for Alun Rossiter’s men.

Belle Vue then roared back with a 4-2 in heat 8 to trail by just two points, but with two successive 5-1’s in a row, it moved the Aces six clear in the meeting and looked to be in control of the meeting now. Once more in this sea saw match, the meeting turned on its head with the Robins coming back once again, led this time by former Belle Vue Colt Charles Wright as he helped the visitors to a 4-2 heat advantage and had the lead cut to four as they produced a late rally.

Peter Kildemand and Troy Bachelor once more demonstrated their team racing abilities as they shut out the Aces pairing of Matej Zagar and Scott Nicholls in heat 13, to get a vital 5-1 and brought the match all square once again. Things got worse for the hosts in the penultimate race of the night in heat 14, when the red hot Robins  posted a 4-2 and were bop bop bopping along to victory.

Heading into a last heat decider and with the home side needing a 5-1 to win the match, it saw Alun Rossiter from Swindon putting out arguably his strongest pair of Kildemand and Bachelor in the race, while the Aces Team Manager Mark Lemon didn`t have any riders on form heading into the crunch race and picked Zagar and Nicholls. The Aces captain Scott Nichols blasted out of the gate for the home side from the start and saw a 3-3 develop, with the score enough for the Robins to claim victory.

However there would be one last twist at the death in the is meeting, as Bachelor seemed to move across the racing line of Kildemand, who lost his steel shoe in the incident and with his team mate pushing him out wide on the final bend of the final lap, it gave Zagar the opportunity cut under him and steal second place and spark wild celebrations.

With the home fans jubilant and applauding their heroes as they both celebrated with wheelies down the back straight, Swindon’s Team Manager Alun Rossiter must be wondering how on earth his men managed to throw a meeting that destined to see the points heading down to Blunsdon.

Swindon Robins = 48

1. Peter Kildemand – 3, 3, 3, 2, 1* = 12+1
2. Kyle Howarth – 2*, 1, 1*, 2* = 6+3
3. Nick Morris – 3, 2*, 3, 0 = 8+1
4. Grzegorz Zengota – 2, 3, EF, 3, 2 = 10
5. Troy Batchelor – 0, 2*, 2*, 0 = 4+2
6. Lewis Rose – 0, 0, 0= 0
7. Charles Wright – 2, 0, 2, 2, 2 = 8

Belle Vue Aces = 42

1. Matej Zagar – 0, 0, 1, 1 = 2
2. Max Fricke – 1, 3, 3, EF, 0 = 7
3. Josh Grajczonek – 2, 1, EXC, 1* = 4+1
4. Rory Schlein – 3, 0, 3, 2 = 8
5. Scott Nicholls – 1*, 1, 1, 3, 3 = 9+1
6. Steve Worrall – 3, 2*, 1, 1 = 7+1
7. Stefan Nielsen – 1, 1, 0, 3 = 5

Ice Hockey: Fan favourite returns for the Phoenix

Ice Hockey

Manchester Phoenix welcomed two players back to the fold for the 2015-16 season as they re-signed the services of a long time forward James Archer and also Czech Republic native Robin Kovar. With the on-going saga involving the club and their owners in Planet Ice and Silverblades still dragging on, luckily the recruiting side of things have been far more productive in this post pre-season as they have the signature of netminder Steve Fone already signed up.   With the inclusion of talisman James Archer to the squad, I asked the fan favourite about his thoughts on last season and also on his own season he said:

It was a tough season, everyone knows about the amount of injuries we had over the season and all things concerned, 2 finals with a Playoff final appearance and a cup final too, that in it`s self was an achievement. I think you can only give credit to the guys that battled through for that.

On his form: There were games i struggled and some where i thought had good games, Swindon obviously springs to mind, because i scored 5 goals. When pushed if he hope will try replicate that performance again, Archer chuckled:  I don`t know about that, those games don`t happen to often and i think Michal (Psurny) was the last score five goals a couple seasons back.

This coming season will see the Sheffield-born forward icing his 6th season in Phoenix colours and will also see him without the services of head coach at the club Tony Hand MBE after the British legend hung up his skate after the EPL play-off final loss to the Peterborough Phantoms. When asked about how his thoughts on will it be weird having Hand behind the bench as opposed to the being on ice, 

He replied: “No, as his presence will still be around. Although not playing, he`ll still be there and still be coaching and still going to be pointing in the right direction if you’ve made an error or not.”

On the subject of if he has any targets or goals set for the new season in September:

“Not as yet. I have in my mind what i`d like to achieve and that is where they will stay for now” he said.

The Phoenix man will not be having too much of a long break away from hockey, as he will soon be heading off to play for the Great British side in the Roller Hockey World Championships taking place this year in Tampere, in Southern Finland and where GB find themselves as the top seeds.

Archer commented: Yeah i am looking forward to it. I`m hoping to help get the boys promotion this year back into POOL A and that`s the aim and what we want to achieve at the end of the day.  He added: We’re going in as the top seed, so a bit of underlying pressure there and people expect you to get out of it, but will be tough and we’ll go there and do the best we can. We’ve got a good team there and putting in some good prep work too. We’re training every few weeks and getting together, so fingers crossed all will go well for us.

James Archer’s GB Donations page: .http://www.gofundme.com/scf3rg


This week also saw the third signing for the Phoenix organisation, with the capture of Czech forward Robin Kovar returning to the club for his third season and will have the coach utilising the Valasske as playmaker for the team and hoping to also put up some big points in the league next season too. Kovar over 48 league games last season, posted numbers of 30 goals and 46 assists, whilst in the playoffs, the Center scored 4 goals and 4 assists that helped his side reach the EPL Playoff final but shown his worth over the year. Jim Piper interviewed Kovar for Phoenix TV and asked on his thoughts of coming back to North West:

“I was so happy to be given an offer by Manchester for next season. I love the city and the organisation. The fans are the best I have ever played for and really wanted to play here again. I had a few offers from other clubs and coaches by text and email but waited for an offer from Manchester as it was the only place I wanted to play.”

Robin who has become a big fave with the Phoenix ‘faithful’ over the past two years at the club, gave his take on the breaking news too that a brand new state of the art rink will be built within Manchester and will hold 3,000 hockey fans.

“It would be a fantastic thing for Manchester and the club. To have their own facility would allow them to develop the club and structure players from a very young age right up to the senior team. I really hope I am able to play in the new arena.”