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Phoenix Tame the Tigers in Red Hockey Cup Thriller

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Manchester Phoenix logo Telford Tigers 3 Manchester Phoenix 4

Phoenix Scorers: James Archer x 2, Robin Kovar and Mark Thomas

Phoenix continued their impressive pre-season form with a fine victory in Telford on Saturday night. After blitzing Swindon Wildcats 6-3 in their last game, they travelled to Shropshire for their first meeting with last season’s champions in a Red Hockey Cup fixture.

Tigers started the game strongly and Stephen Fone had to be smart to save early on from Nathan Salem. Phoenix were looking good with a counter-attacking style and deservedly took the lead on 7.15 when Robin Kovar scored from close in, assisted by Mark Thomas. 3 minutes later James Archer and Robin Kovar combined well to set up Mark Thomas on the blue line and the defenceman sent a crisp accurate shot past Tom Murdy to double Phoenix’s lead.

Tigers rose to the challenge and took the game to Phoenix but found Stephen Fone in brilliant form to deny them a goal. The noisy away following were up on their feet again on 18.03 when James Archer was in the right place at the right time to make it 3-0, picking up his own rebound from behind the net. Assists went to Stan Gron and Michal Satek. A jubilant Phoenix faithful rose to applaud their charges off the ice at the first break after a breathtaking performance and a three goal lead.

Everyone in the rink knew Tigers were not going to take the situation lying down and came out determined to redress the balance. After a wave of attacking play Nathan Salem pulled a goal back on 23.42, assisted by Joe Millar and Peter Szabo. Tigers followed that up by pressing hard and keeping Phoenix in their own zone. The best way to relieve pressure is to score a goal and Phoenix duly obliged on 27.21, James Archer scoring from in front of the net. Assists once again went to Stan Gron and Michal Satek. Tigers piled on the pressure but a resolute defence, assisted by great work from the forwards tracking back, kept them out. Stephen Fone again stood on his head with numerous great saves and the period ended with no further scoring.

Tigers again dominated possession during the third period but Phoenix always looked the more dangerous on the break and the crisp passing, fast-paced attack were giving the Tigers’ defence all sorts of problems. The referee decided to play a part in proceedings around the 50th minute mark with a bizarre interference call on Stephen Fone when the netminder and Blaho Novak came together. The forward’s stick got caught up in the netminders equipment and after being a bit aggressive in trying to release the stick, Fone aided him by helping the stick to the boards behind the net. Up went the referee’s hand and the interference call was administered. Mark Thomas and Blaho Novak had a few words and both were given 2 minutes for roughing. The penalty count was evened up 30 seconds later with Nathan Salem assessed a roughing minor.

Phoenix held out against intense Tigers pressure until the last minute when two quick goals by Andres Ondrej and Nathan Salem brought the scores closer. Phoenix then played the game out for an outstanding result to continue their impressive pre-season form.

Coach Hand said after the game: “We are competing well all over the ice and although there are things that need improving, I am really pleased the way we have started the season. We have a lot of positives to take from tonight but it is early days yet. It was great to see our fans turn up in numbers again. They are amazing and a huge boost to the team.”

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