With the NHL season underway and the Coyotes beginning life under new, stable ownership I thought I would take time to let you know how your adopted Euro team, the Manchester Phoenix, are getting on. The 13/14 season finally began early September after a long, but enjoyable, summer for Phoenix fans. If you read my last post you would know the Manchester Phoenix won the league’s playoff final in Coventry. The trophy meaning us Phoenix fans headed into the summer with smiles on our faces.
Usually every summer in UK hockey sees each team more or less change its entire roster. With the Phoenix success last season, the 13.14 edition has seen a much more settled roster coming into the new season. There have only been a few new additions in the British contingent and two new import players. I should point out in the English Premier Ice Hockey League teams are only allowed 4 import (Euro trained) players while the rest of the roster must be made up of British players. The main headlines over summer for the Phoenix were, the return of one of last season star players, Michal Psurny. With his point production from last season he could have gone elsewhere. Many a Phoenix fan was overjoyed when he signed on for another season. The second headline was that Tony Hand, the first British player to be drafted into the NHL, would be coming back for another season. Even if he intends to slowly wind it down as he approaches retirement, he is 46 after all!
So, the 13.14 season so far?
We are 10 games into the season (at the time of this writing) and have just played a weekend double header against last season’s league champions, the Guildford Flames. The games so far have seen the Phoenix take on fellow title contenders, mid table opposition and basement outfits. The Phoenix are 9 and 1 and sit atop the EPIHL by one point from the Flames.
The team this year looks impressive. They are strong throughout all three lines and have great goaltending. Not only from Steve Fone (starter) but also our back up, Jorge El-Hage, who has been getting minutes. The Phoenix forward lines have been scoring for fun in some games. We have had an 11-2, 11-0 and 12-2 win at home so far. Michal Psurny, the star forward of last season, has carried on his scoring exploits with 10 goals and 15 assists so far this campaign. New import forward Frantisek Bakrlik took the early headlines with numerous goals in early games. He is a big strong forward who can't be easily dispossessed and has a wicked wrister. He has 14 goals and 8 assists in the 10 games so far.
The scorching early season form has come from a whole team effort. This year the players seem to be playing a whole level above last year. Every single skater has points even at this early stage and, our starting netminder, Steve Fone, has a 1.76GAA and save % of .948! The atmosphere at home in the Ice Dome has been electric.
Through the 10 games, fans of the Phoenix and Guildford Flames had been looking forward to last weekend’s double header. The weekend would offer a true opportunity to see how each team would stack up against fellow title contenders. There was added spice to the game as the current Flames roster contains no fewer than 4 former Phoenix players. In the EPIHL there are teams who play physical and dirty and there are teams who like to play hockey. The Phoenix and the Flames are both the latter. Both teams respect each other. They play hard but fair. Both teams are skillful and fast so any game between the two is entertaining. The weekend’s double header would be great to watch and, to be honest, I didn't mind who won. Especially the Sunday game in Manchester as I know I would be entertained.
The away game on Saturday sounded like a close game, in fact, the game was tied 2-2 with 5 minutes to go. The contest flip flopped in those last 5 minutes, The Phoenix had a penalty shot which was missed then, with 90 seconds to go. the Flames won it. What hurt fans the most was, the player who scored, was a player who spent his last few seasons on the Phoenix roster and was a fan favourite. I guess that's hockey! The return fixture in Manchester on Sunday offered a chance of revenge. Boy did the Phoenix take it. They dominated the 2nd and 3rd periods to score a fantastic 7-4 win. The teams split the points over the weekend so the Phoenix remain top by one point.
We may only be 10 games into the season, but Phoenix fans are happy and confident. We have a damn good team, but we are not getting away from ourselves. You don't win any league in October!
It should be said I wrote this post before last weekends games!
Thanks for stopping by to read! @theangrybudgie
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