Steven Midghall receiving his Planet Ice MVP award from Neil Morris
Saturday 9th August saw the final Planet Ice League home game of the season for the Manchester Phoenix as they took on the Kingston Kestrels. With a large crowd in attendance, including Phoenix EPL players James Neil & Joe Graham, as well as Phoenix owner Neil Morris, and an unbeaten home record, there was a sense of excitement in the air!
The game took a weird twist, as due to traffic and unforeseen circumstances, the Kestrels couldn’t ice a full line, meaning the game was forfeit, automatically giving Phoenix the win. However, with both teams wanting to put a game on, Phoenix loaned Karl Nicholson and Steve Bradley to the Kestrels to give them a full line – game on!
The first period started with a few early hits, including Anthony Booth on Karl Nicholson, proving that if you aren’t wearing the Phoenix shirt, you aren’t getting an easy time, no matter who you are! Just over 2:30 in and Booth got a breakaway. Although his shot was saved, he still managed to put in the rebound! Kestrels came storming back though and almost a minute later Matt Clarkson came in alone against Steve Midghall in the Phoenix net. He managed to take it round him, slid it across the crease but Midghall covered. Some great defensive work by both teams kept chances to premium until nearly 8 minutes on the clock when Booth almost caught Kingston out with a long shot, but it’s pushed aside at the last second. The next 2 minutes saw Kestrels register 3 goals, with Matt Clarkson rifling a shot from the top of the circle into the top corner.
Straight from the face off, Karl Nicholson collected the puck, weaved through traffic and rifled a shot past Midghall. Phoenix applied pressure but a quick Kestrels break just 45 seconds after their second goal gave Clarkson a break and he beat Midghall far side. Both teams traded chances, with a huge glove save through traffic by Midghall at the 12 minute mark, which led to a great break by Phoenix and Rob Allen leaving a delicate drop pass to Booth who shot it agonisingly wide. The period ended 3-1 Kestrels.
The second period saw Ian Warner join the Kestrels after being held up in traffic, so Phoenix got Karl Nicholson back. The period started with both teams battling, but it was Kestrels who got the breakthrough just over 2:30 in, with Matt Clarkson getting his hat trick by shooting quickly just over Midghall’s pads. Phoenix picked up their play, refusing to get down, with the crowd roaring on every attack. The next few minutes showed some great passing plays by both teams, but just under 7 minutes in and a wrap around attempt by Booth was smothered by Bryan Hackworth in the Kestrels goal. However just 20 seconds later Rob Allen took a long shot, and although saved, the rebound was roofed by Karl Nicholson, making the score 4-2! Just 30 seconds later it was 4-3, as a great backhand pass by Rob Allen after a great battle for the puck left Nicholson with a open net to slot the puck in! The Kestrels hit back with a lot of pressure, Midghall in net and Graham Wilson & Mike Stevenson in defence hold strong, but with just under 10 minutes on the clock, Ian Warner caught the defence on a breakaway and slipped past Wilson, putting the puck past Midghall. Chances were traded as the period drew to a close, but Nicholson got a breakaway with 40 seconds left. Hackworth held firm and blocked the shot to take his team in to the break 5-3 up!
With both teams still looking to take the win, they started at a fast, physical pace, but it was the home side who make the first breakthrough of the period. Booth picked up the puck in the Phoenix zone, banked a pass off the boards to Nicholson, who collected it and broke in to the Kestrels zone, blasting the puck past the keeper! With just a goal in it, the game picked up in both physicality and intensity, and both teams cancelled each other out for the next several minutes. Steve Bradley, guesting for the Kestrels, blocked several Phoenix shots, however Nicholson forced his way into the zone just over 8 minutes in, went behind the net and passed back hand to Booth who roofed the puck to tie the game 5-5! Minutes later and Midghall made a spectacular glove save from a long range shot by Clarkson, bringing applause from fans and players alike! With the seconds ticking down the suspense in the atmosphere became tangible, as both sides had chances and both netminders shut the door, but with just over a minute left Ian Warner got a chance and made no mistakes, slotting the puck in the net from the left circle. The Phoenix threw everything at the Kestrels for the last minute, but just couldn’t get the break as the final buzzer sounded! A great performance by both sides, with the crowd treated to another entertaining game, and some valuable experience gained for many new players!
Steve Midghall was awarded MVP of the game, receiving his award from Neil Morris. With one game left, the Phoenix can still finish second by claiming at least a point in their last game in Peterborough, showing how far the league has come this year, that the last game still holds so much for several teams!
The Manchester Phoenix Sledge Hockey Team with Manchester Phoenix’s Neil Morris
Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @MP_Sledgehockey and look for us on Facebook, to keep up to date with everything that’s going on with the team. Also check out the Phoenix Podcast who again featured our game Lastly a huge thanks to all the volunteers for helping us put the games on, our sponsors for helping put together programmes etc, the podcast for featuring us and making us feel like the pro’s and the fans who really have inspired the team this year! We had hoped to get some good crowds down, but never as big as we actually did! You are a credit to the club and the organisation!