This past Sunday afternoon saw the start of the 2016 British Sledge Hockey League starting up and saw the Manchester Phoenix welcoming the league champions of the past two seasons the Peterborough Phantoms to their new base for the forthcoming season, with the Phoenix playing out of the Deeside Ice Rink in North Wales. Phoenix were dealt a blow coming into the game as with such a short bench it was made worse during the week, when GB International Dean ‘The Magician’ Lahan sustained a dislocated shoulder in training and with Pat Bailey missing too it saw two key players out for Manchester and saw them having to ice just one fit line.
In the first period Manchester were doing well and it wasn’t exactly telling that the home side was playing just One line against their more powerful opposition, but the Phoenix more than held their own in the period. Despite the hosts not creating anything in the way of chances, it saw them forcing the Phantoms to take shots from a long way out and had Manchester netminder Steve Midghall on top form to keep the game goalless. Both teams you could say were suffering with a touch of ring rust on them, with this being the opening game of the season and in truth it showed on both teams with some of the Phantoms players not yet used to a couple of their new line-mates.
Midghall in the Manchester goals kept producing a string of stunning saves to deny the Phantoms attackers and had him doing his best to help keep his side in the game, as without him the scoreline on a different day may have been far different. A goalless first period was brought to a close and and saw the Phoenix doing extremely well to keep it close as we headed into the start of the second. As the period went on you could start to see the home side tiring a bit with their short bench and that handed the inisitive to the Phantoms, with the visitors beginning to click and saw them starting to take over and move up a gear or two.
Peterborough’s Gary Farmer netted the opener for the visitors as he flipped the puck quickly by Midghall for a 1-0 lead and that was soon followed in the period by another GB International in Darren Brown and he doubled the lead for the Phantoms, as they started to take full control of the contest . Manchester were unable to repel the powerful Peterborough attacks for much longer and that left the hosts in a spot of bother and would only get worse through the game. Graham Wilson of the Phoenix collected a 2+2 penalty as he was called for Roughing and Hooking offences, but was lucky to stay on the ice.
Manchester were under the cosh a lot in the second period and didn’t help matters with a man in the box either. Scotty Turner scored on the power play to open his account for the Phantoms as he extended their lead to a 3-0 lead. Phoenix tried to answer back at their opponents and were unfortunately being caught out on odd man rushes by the visitors as the Phantoms were running away with the game. The Signs were there as the tiredness hit them hard and that just helped the opposition out more so in the game. Turner then bagged his second of the game to make it 4-0 for the Cambridgeshire outfit and it threatened to become a cricket score.
Thankfully for the Phoenix players the horn sounded and gave them a chance to have a breather and regroup before the final period of play. The home side didn’t have many clear cut chances falling their way in the match and so when they fell they had to make the most them. So early on in the period it saw Manchester’s Karl Nicholson putting one past Robin Gaze in the Phantoms net to see the shut out ended and give Phoenix a mere consolation goal in truth but credit to them as well, as they never stopped fighting in the game and didn’t roll over to the league champions as played with a lot of heart.
Peterborough was gifted their fifth goal in the game, after Turner put a fizzing pass across goal and was unfortunately turn into his own net by Rob Allen who made his return to the Phoenix line up after a terrible ankle injury that kept him sidelined for most of the season. His frustration came out for all to see on a lucky bounce for the away side and showed that they were still giving everything they had too. Matt Coleman fired a sixth goal in for the champions and was just very harsh on the Manchester side as it wasn’t as the scoreline suggested.
Manchester were still giving all to the cause but in a certain losing vain, but that didn’t stop them still trying to find another goal from somewhere and if anything just to give them a boost in the contest. Gary Farmer then rounded off the scoring towards the end of the game, when his shot beat Midghall who in fairness didn’t deserve to be the end of a five goal loss, but his efforts did earn him the man of the match award for the home side in what was a very tough outing against a very strong Peterborough side and no doubt the front runners to try and make it three league titles in a row. Farmer then picked up a late Teeing penalty in the game as the Phoenix had the rare occasion of having more men on the ice than that of their opponents. Dougy Hankinson then got given a couple of minutes in the Phoenix cage, but the Phantoms were worthy winners and sees them top the table with a big road victory and sees them meeting the Phoenix in their next game towards the end of the month.
Despite a 7-1 loss there was lot of positives to take from their loss which seems a bit strange to say, but coach Pete Hagan will be please that his side didn’t give up and played hard for the entire game. Manchester’s next game is a nice trip over the Pennines to face the Sheffield Steelkings at Ice Sheffield next Sunday afternoon, as the Phoenix hope to kick start their season with victory against a side that they unbeaten against.
Check out Scott Turners head shot on Stephen Midgehall in the Phoenix goal, he pulled off some great saves throughout the afternoon to keep the scoreline relativly low, here the shot takes his helmet clean off his noggin!.
Match report: Peter Bradbury, see some of Pete’s other sports reports at: peterbradssports