Sledge Hockey: Phoenix Melt The Steelkings

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Manchester Phoenix bounced back from their 7-1 defeat to the Peterborough Phantoms last weekend in their league opener with a 8-0 win in South Yorkshire, as the Manchester side gave a ‘Royal beating’ so to speak to the Sheffield Steelkings at Ice Sheffield on Sunday afternoon. Phoenix duo Anthony Booth and Rob Allen both bagged hat trick’s in the game as Manchester got their season back on track with a big victory in the War of the Roses on the Sledge.

Play was almost predominantly played inside the Sheffield zone throughout the contest as Phoenix were only denied by the home side’s stubborn defending that nearly saw them recording a scoreless period. Rob Allen came close to opening scoring when his tip-in on goal from a Graham Wilson shot was stopped by the goalie at the Steelkings goal and that set out how the game would go. Karl Nicholson struck the crossbar minutes later for the visitors, as the puck beat Bryan Hackworth in the Sheffield goals all ends up but didn’t find the twine. Manchester went even more closer after Nicholson again found space to shoot from, but Hackworth made a stunning glove save above his head and was truly one for the cameras robbing his GB team-mate. Sheffield were frustrating the Phoenix side as they had almost all the possession in the first but it looked like the hosts would hold out for the period. Sadly for them they were unable to do so and Karl Nicholson weaved his way through the Steelkings back line before playing a little pass across goal for Anthony Booth on the far side as the Phoenix man ghosted in to fire past the despairing efforts of Bryan Hackworth for a deserved 1-0 lead.

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As the horn sounded to bring a close on the first period, it looked like the floodgates may well open for the visitors for the remainder of the game, and in truth it did, but it was from far and away from a walkover as the Steelkings were resolute in their defensive side. Manchester doubled their lead 35 seconds into the middle stanza, when Rob Allen saw his shot just squirmed underneath Bryan Hackworth for the insurance marker at 15:35 and was a unlucky on the goalie as he looked to have done everything right. The visitors though kept up the pressure on the home side and was keeping the puck deep inside the Sheffield zone as much as they could do, but Sheffield still holding firm and were unfortunately struggling to create anything in the way of a possible attack in the entire game. Karl Nicholson scored to make it 3-0 for the Phoenix at 19:30 as assists went to Dominic Cosgrove and Anthony Booth, as the Great Britain International put home from close range after capitalising on a defensive error and that looked to put the game out of sight for the hosts.

Despite being up by three goals, one thing you couldn’t say is that Sheffield were rolling over for their opponents as that would be extremely harsh to say. Sheffield are still a team in learning their way around the BSHL (British Sledge Hockey League) and so these are tough times for the Steelkings but also learning experiences for them going forward and in very harsh lessons to boot. One thing that has improved this season is their defending compared to last year, after Sheffield leaked an alarming amount in their debut season but this year they have come on leaps and bounds and have become a tougher side to break down. As mentioned their defensive side was at the fore again and important blocks were made from the Steelkings players as Rachel Paget made a good block from Phoenix man at the front of the net to stop a certain goal for the Phoenix, then Jake Oakley made a last gasp stop on the goal line and despite the Sheffield man knowing little off it, the netminder had the presence of mind to covering up for the whistle.

Rob Allen made it 4-0 with an unassisted effort at 22:43, and the chances were now being taken by the Phoenix but Bryan Hackworth made a great stop from Allen minutes later when the Manchester forward looked like he was on course to score his third goal, but the goalie made himself big to deny him. With 4:11 left to go in the second period it saw two goals going in for the visitors, with Booth netting his second of the game at 25:14 and then 26 seconds later through Karl Nicholson who made it 6-0 with less than nineteen seconds left in the period. Sheffield will feel they could have done better in the period at the back, but with a tough opponent and a lot of the team not being able to train for the past six weeks, it did really hamper the home side and it evident on passages of play.

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In the final period of play Manchester took their foot of the gas a bit but they still had far too much for their opponents as they out-shot their opponents on the other side of the Pennines 43-0. Bryan Hackworth was frequency called upon again in the period and the Steelkings tried to deal with Nicholson and saw his shot stopped by the goalie as the hosts began to really tire. Rob Allen then completed his hat trick in the game for a seventh Phoenix goal at 39:17, as the visitors went in search of more goals as they looked toward getting a healthy goal difference on the table. Dominic Cosgrove who put in a good performance for the Phoenix side saw him trying his heart out to claim a goal, but he just always seemed in the wrong place at the wrong time. Manchester once again brought a save out of Hackworth and saw the netminder clearly shattered by this point facing so much rubber in the game and tried to drag the mini breaks out to recover. As we came towards the end of the contest it saw the away side striking the crossbar once again, that before Anthony Booth completing his own hat trick with Allen assisting and making it 8-0 at 44:54 to round off a road win for the visitors and keep their unbeaten run against Sheffield going.

 With the hosts struggling for offensive plays and some members lacking practice, the Steelkings have shown glimpses that they are getting there and even if it is a bit of a slow burner for them they are coming along and it the future is bright.  For Manchester a dominating performance by the whole side with included the return of Steve Bradley to the line up saw the Phoenix having the luxury of a spare player to their tiny squad and that helped them out on the bigger ice pad too. Phoenix now hope to build on this win as they make the long journey down South to Peterborough and face the league champions and hope to avoid a repeat 7-1 defeat against the Phantoms next weekend. 

Man of the Match:

Sheffield Steelkings : Caroline Bonner  ,   Manchester Phoenix :  Karl Nicholson


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