Manchester Phoenix 3 – 11 Swindon Wildcats
With the future of Manchester Phoenix Ice Hockey Club still being shrouded in mystery off the ice, on the ice the side have been nothing short of remarkable and not played like a side are struggling to keep their heads above water. With problems off the ice affecting the number of players that they were able to ice, it led to Phoenix being forced to draft in reinforcements from other teams to help them over the three games this weekend during their troubling time.
Friday and Saturday saw them using players from the Sutton Sting and Blackburn Hawks NIHL teams in their 7-1 defeat against their Roses rivals the Sheffield Steeldogs on Friday, before then loaning players from the Oxford City Stars, Bristol Pitbulls and the Solent Devill for their Saturday night game against the Bracknell Bees in a 5-1 defeat at ‘The Hive’. Sunday’s contest against the Swindon Wildcats saw players drafted in this time from the Bradford Bulldogs, Deeside Dragons, Bristol Bulldogs and Blackburn Hawks respectively in the game at Widnes.
It was predicted by some people that a team with the attacking threat that Swindon posed would only be matter of time before they scored, as the make shift Phoenix iced only 7 recognisable EPL players in their line-up. That said however, it turned out to be correct in it wouldn’t take long for a goal to go in, but much to the shock of everyone in the Silverblades Widnes crowd, it was the hosts that got on the board first with their first shot of the game. It saw Bradford’s Myles Dacres skating over the blue line on the right wing and then unleashed a fierce shot high over Michael Crisp glove for a goal timed at 1:27 to give the Phoenix a stunning lead, would we be seeing a possibly a ‘miracle on ice’ perhaps?
The answer was no sadly, as Swindon shrugged off the early goal off and dominated play not just in the first period but the whole game in truth. A goal you felt was always on the cards for the Wildcats due mainly to their puck retention and being camped inside the Manchester zone for the majority of the period. When the goal game came it was through Jan Kostal, as his shot through traffic tied the game up at the 7:47 mark to make it 1-1. Minutes later it saw the Wildcats taking the lead in the game through Floyd Taylor’s goal, with the Swindon man scoring his first of the night past Steve Fone to make it 2-1 and that followed shortly after by Sam Bullas who flicked the puck over the helpless Fone at 11:04 to make it 3-1 scoreline and have the Wiltshire side taking over.
Tom Rutkis made it four with 41 seconds left to play in the first period and saw the visitors lead 4-1 after 20 minutes. Second period saw the Swindon onslaught continuing on in the middle stanza after Luke Boothroyd was sitting a hooking call against him and that powerplay for the Wildcats saw Robin Kovar gliding around the back of the Phoenix nets before his vision saw Rutkis who in turn fed Tomasz Malasinski, and the Pole finished it off nicely leaving Fone with no chance at all at 20:41.
Manchester was finding it hard to create any chances at all and in truth just going forward full stop was proving a problem but the lack of cohesion and well placed poke checks from the Swindon side was another problem too. Max Birbraer almost made it six for the visitors when his shot struck the pipe work and that was just not more than delaying the inevitable, as Floyd Taylor scored his second of the game for the Cats’ after he skated over the blue line unchallenged and then unleashed a shot that went top shelf on Steve Fone to make it 6-1 and saw the game becoming a bit lop-sided on the scoreline.
Phoenix players battled hard throughout and were unable to generate anything in the way of good chance, though Dacres did have the only effort of note in the second period as he missed the target from close range. At 37:20 the inevitable occurred in the game, when Robin Kovar on his return to facing his former club slammed home a pass at the back door but was applauded by the Phoenix fans who still idolise their former hero and he in turn took the fans applause as he headed back to the bench after the goal. Swindon then went 8-1 up courtesy of a Floyd Taylor hat-trick goal, with the Wildcats number 12 scoring a replay of his second goal with a shot that he ripped past the keeper and pinging in off the post to give the Cats’ a formidable lead after two periods.
In the final period of play it saw Manchester trying to double their scoreline early on and had Phoenix stalwart Ben Wood scoring the hosts second goal of the game with an almost identical goal to Dacres in the first, as the Macclesfield-born player cutting in over the blue line then shooting low on the keeper with a ‘crisp shot’ so to speak on Michael Crisp in the Swindon nets to make it 8-2 and give the home side supporters something to cheer again in this game.
Swindon’s special teams unit worked well again for the 9th goal with some neat passing and movement by the Wildcats side in the lead up to Jan Kostal’s goal at 47:02, where the Czech forward doubled his own personal tally in the game. Former Phoenix man Michael Stratford that joined on loan for the Manchester club earlier in the season saw him getting on the scoresheet with a touch of good fortune about it, as after Ben Nethersell saw his shot missing the target it had the puck bouncing nicely for Stratford at the side of the net to quickly turn home for the Wildcats 10th goal of the night, 19 seconds after Stratford scored it had Tom Rutkis making it an 11-2 game at 48:56.
With the game well and truly gone now for the Phoenix, they just began to throw caution to the wind and try to play high up the ice and see if they could muster another goal in the final ten minutes of the game. Ben Wood came close with a deflected effort that saw Crisp equal to it, but with the goalie making a couple of decent saves for the ‘Cats it saw his defences broken one final time. After all that has happened with the Phoenix in recent weeks with the whole bringing players in to bolster their team, it was almost bound to happen that one of these game would have these loaned players shine and that player proved to be Myles Dacres in this game with the Bradford Bulldogs man netted his second of the game and Manchester’s third with a well took goal roofing the puck high into the net for 11-3.
One amazing statistic of the weekend though was that netminder Steve Fone had faced an incredible 184 shots this weekend, after Sheffield fired 72 on him on Friday night and then followed that up with a 45 shot barrage facing him on Saturday in Bracknell, before finishing his weekend off with 67 in this game. Fone will probably have gotten used to seeing the imprint ‘Made In Czech Republic’ on the game pucks after this busy weekend for the netminder.
All after all was said and done and the game came to a close, the Phoenix fans were still in great voice as the time ticked down and saw the home fans rising to their feet perhaps for the last time and cheered their heroes on and after the horn sounded too. Attention now turns to this up-coming week and whether any deal with a possible investor can be struck.
Phoenix: Myles Dacres 2+0, Ben Wood 1+0, Luke Boothroyd 0+1, Ross Kennedy 0+1, Geoff Wigglesworth 0+1, Robert Streetly 0+1, Gareth O’Flaherty 0+1
Wildcats: Floyd Taylor 3+1, Tom Rutkis 2+2, Jan Kostal 2+0, Sam Bullas 1+4, Robin Kovar 1+2, Tomasz Malasinski 1+1, Michael Stratford 1+0, Stephen Whitfield 0+2, Adam Finlinson 0+2, Ben Nethersell 0+2
Phoenix: Steve Fone SOG 67-11 (83.58%) Wildcats: Michael Crisp SOG 26-3 (88.46%)
Phoenix: 4 PIM – Wildcats: 2 PIM
Phoenix: 0-1 (0.00%) Wildcats: 2-2 (100%)