Manchester Phoenix 10 – 1 Sheffield Steelkings
This past Sunday afternoon saw the curtain come down on the regular season for the Manchester Phoenix Sledge Hockey team, as they faced off against the Sheffield Steelkings at the Fylde Coast Ice Arena and rounded off their league campaign with a comfortable 10-1 win over their friends from over the Pennines.
Phoenix were still missing their star netminder in Steve Midghall in their lineup, after the netminder suffered a recurrence of his shoulder injury. There was some good for the home side in the injury front, as they were boosted by the returning Pat Bailey to the lineup as the forward had been out through injury and was making his first Sledge game of the season. For the visitors they were missing Barry Grayson and David Hall, with the latter sidelined after an injury he sustained in a match against Kingston earlier in the season.
The game wasn’t even 90 seconds old when Karl Nicholson fired the Phoenix ahead with a shot from the point that found its way in at 1:24 gone in the game, with Rob Allen credited with an assist. Sheffield were under the cosh from the off and pretty much were in the whole game in truth, as Manchester pinned their opponents in their own zone and saw GB netminder Bryan Hackworth having to make a good save from Rob Allen to deny him getting on the board with a low glove save.
Some more good play by the home side and especially their passing, saw the Phoenix getting behind the Steelkings defences and were only thwarted by Bryan Hackworth. Karl Nicholson then doubled the lead for Manchester as well as taking his goal tally, with a goal after a scramble infront of the Sheffield zone saw the goalie trying to get the puck covered up, but Nicholson was on hand to put home into an empty net at 5:28 and had Allen grabbing his second assist in the game.
2-0 then quickly became 3-0 soon after for the hosts, when Nicholson played a backhanded pass across the face of goal for Pat Bailey, but his shot was blocked and Rob Allen was alert enough to put in the net for his first of the game and saw the home side firmly in control. Sheffield seemed unable to even get out of their zone and that was hurting them a lot in the opening period. Hackworth again was called upon by his side to shut the door on their opponents, as wave after wave of Manchester attacks came at them and saw Anthony Booth shooting from a tight angle that was spilled by the goalie but was able to cover up.
Sheffield then got awarded a power play opportunity, when Graham Wilson was called for T-Boning in the corner after a crunching hit from the defenseman saw the Steelkings having the man advantage. The visitors struggled to create anything in the way of chances in their powerplay, but it did see the Phoenix netting a short-handed effort through Pat Bailey, after Karl Nicholson had dashed up ice and saw a neat lay off for his team mate Bailey who joined in the play late to push it home for 4-0 at 10.07.
A couple of big hits coming in from both sets of players saw the puck becoming free near the Sheffield goals and Nicholson tried to lift it over Hackworth, but the goalie was far too clever for the forward and knew exactly what he was trying to do and saw him collecting the puck in the goalies mitt with a great save. Manchester then had a goal washed out before the break at 14:40, when the referee signalled no-goal after bodies were strewn across the goal crease and the puck had gone in, but there wasn’t too many complaints coming from the home side on it being chalked off.
Play started off in the second period pretty scrappy, with Sheffield trying to upset the rhythm of the Phoenix players and saw them cutting out some passes by the hosts. Graham Wilson then swapped defense to attack, as he almost saw scored on a break after he receiving a great pass from his own zone and saw the defenseman 1 on 1 with the goalie, but Hackworth came out on top. Bryan was then forced into a stunning save from the resulting play, after a shot was deflected up in the air and heading on goal but the Steelkings goalie had to reach back to claim it and stop a freak goal from going in.
A brilliant team move brought about the 5th goal for the Phoenix, as some tic-tac-toe play saw Manchester carving Sheffield wide open after they had committed too many players up ice and that allowed Nicholson to make a pass to the back post for Pat Bailey and he put home at 22:08. Phoenix head coach Pete Hagan then made a goalie change with Darren Pomfrett replacing Dougy Hankinson in between the pipes and had Pomfrett not afraid to express his feelings to his teammates down at the far end. Graham Wilson had another chance go begging for him at the front of the net, this time after Dominic Cosgrove had played a nice back door pass out for him and Hackworth once again made a point blank save to deny him.
Sheffield then suffered a poor call from the match official with just over 5 minutes left to play in the second, after Jake Oakley had outpaced Dominic Cosgrove at center ice and had only Karl Nicholson to beat and was turning him inside out and out, before the referee blew play dead to bring attention to the net in which his opinion was off. What made it worse was play had continued on for at least another 10-15 seconds before he decided to blow up and had the visiting side highly unimpressed with the decision.
Nicholson was architect for the sixth goal for the home team, after the GB man skated through the Sheffield defence with ease and played an inch perfect pass for Anthony Booth to get onto and give the Phoenix goal difference a boost. A further strike before the end of the period by Pat Bailey made it 7-0 and it looked to be a case of whether they would hit double figures or not.
Manchester were the only side in the game to be fair, but Sheffield didn’t want to hit for double figures again in the league this season and even slowly began to step it up a bit more and began to cause a couple of problems. Hackworth once more was in the thick of the action, after he made a stop on Rob Allen after a great pass by Graham Wilson saw the rebound falling to Karl Nicholson, but the Manchester man stopped.
As mentioned previously, Sheffield gave it a good go in third as saw having nothing to lose but pride, but a pass up Ice by Rachel Paget saw Jake Oakley taking the puck with him up Ice and into the Phoenix zone, before he played a little pass towards David Scvill and his shot managed to find it’s way under the glove of Pomfrett and into the back of the net as the visitors got on the scoreboard at 36:51.
With time ticking down on the game, it saw Booth making it 8-1 for Phoenix with a tight angled shot at 39:43 and then with less than two minutes to play the third, it saw Nicholson taking the brunt of a heavy collision from Rachel Paget by the boards and saw him sitting out the rest of the game. Sheffield went close again to a goal, but the puck was cleared as far as Pat Bailey who went coast to coast with his effort and that saw him firing high over the shoulder of Bryan Hackworth and making it 9-1 at 44:05.
From the restart it saw Anthony Booth breaking into the Steelkings zone and firing his shot passed the goalie for Phoenix’s 10th goal of the game at 44:31, and saw the game mercifully for Sheffield finish. You can never question the effort of the Steelkings and after their goal you could see it did energise them for a small period of time.
Match awards for player for the game went to the Number 16’s on both sides, as Rachel Paget of Sheffield and Manchester’s Rob Allen both took the glass paperweights and beers. The win will be boost to the Phoenix who will meet the Kingston Kestrels in the playoffs and hold an unbeaten record against them so far this season, with a 2-2 draw and a 4-0 win both at the Hull Ice Arena