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Phoenix battle their way to the Final

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Manchester Phoenix logo Milton Keynes Lightning 4 Manchester Phoenix 7

Phoenix scorers: Shaun Thompson x 2, Robin Kovar x 2, Adam Walker, Frantisek Bakrlik and James Archer

Manchester Phoenix booked a place in the EPL playoff final with an epic, battling performance against Milton Keynes Lightning, setting up a date with Peterborough Phantoms after a 7-4 win at the EPL Playoff final weekend at the Coventry Skydome.

Robin Kovar and Shaun Thompson each bagged a brace to ensure that Tony Hand MBE's final game as a player will be in a showpiece final.

Phoenix took control of a topsy-turvy clash with two goals at the back end of the second period when Kovar fired home before Hand was involved in a fantastic Adam Walker marker.

Before then a frantic opening period had seen it tied 2-2 after just 11 minutes.

Phoenix went in front in the fourth minute as Shaun Thompson's accurate effort somehow found a way through after Stephen Wall had misjudged its flight. Lightning then killed a penalty on Chris Wiggins before they equalised on 8.49, when Curtis Huppe hit a cracking shot from the right against his former employers.

Phoenix didn't hang around though and wrestled back the lead within 28 seconds, James Archer and Robin Kovar combining for Thompson's second of the night.

But just two minutes later, on 11:04, MK levelled again – and much like Phoenix's first it would be one the netminder would want back.

Lewis Hook’s effort wasn’t the most powerful but it dribbled over Stephen Fone’s line with the the netminder scrambling.

After such an epic start the game understandably calmed down, although there was a lot of face-washing and disagreements in the meantime.

Lightning’s Petr Horava hit the bar in the last minute of the period but it was Phoenix who landed the next blow.

There was a scramble in the MK goal and up popped Robin Kovar to poke the puck in low on 21.02 with assists going to Frantisek Bakrlik and Adam Walker. The game was scrappy and seemingly in control of last season’s champions until Huppe bagged his second on 26.48. Phoenix passed up their second pp opportunity of the night when Horava went for slashing midway through the clash.

However, Kovar scored an absolute cracker with three minutes left in the period to give his side the advantage for the fourth time. Phoenix’s next goal was a thing of beauty. Tony Hand drifted in from the left and found Bakrlik who simply backhanded the puck to Walker. The Scot then fired high past Wall for 5-3.

Hand set up Bakrlik up on 46 minutes only for him to blast high and then Fone denied MK a one on one. The joy of the save was short lived though as on Lightning’s next attack Leigh Jamieson’s shot was parried into the path of Chris Wiggins who made it a one goal game. Phoenix ran into penalty trouble with both Joe Graham and Robin Kovar heading to the bin in quick succession before James Archer was unlucky not to tip in a great pass.

Milton Keynes ran everything at Phoenix in the final minute but with Wall pulled for the extra skater, Bakrlik and then Archer sealed the deal with empty net goals.

Phoenix will play Peterborough Phantoms in Sunday’s final at 1600hrs after the Phantoms beat favourites Telford Tigers 4-2 in the earlier semi final.

Coach Hand said after the game: “I am so proud of the lads today; they battled for every puck and worked tirelessly for the whole 60 minutes. Lightning are a good side and we had to be on top of our game to go through.”

Click here for more information and news from the Manchester Phoenix website

Click here to see the latest Manchester Phoenix roster for the 2014/15 season

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