Phoenix Edge Wildcats

Manchester Phoenix 5 Swindon Wildcats 3

A four point weekend had thus far evaded Stevie Lyle’s Wildcats going into Sunday evening’s away fixture against Manchester Phoenix reports Danny Gallagher from Total Swindon.


A win the day previous against Telford Tigers in SN5 had set Wildcats up well to go on and change this statistic. With new import Carlo Finucci in a rich vein of form and the team looking strong, confidence was rife.


The first period began with the home side on the front foot, steadily applying pressure while getting into their groove.


The first opportunity of the evening fell to Robin Kovar, who cut down the Phoenix right and smashed an early effort at Lyle. The Swindon net minder saved well, but the shot served as food for thought.


It would not be long however till Phoenix made their mark, scoring on the fourth minute after Stanislav Gron and James Neil linked up to assist Michal Šátek.


Eager to build, Phoenix kept their foot on the gas, continuing to plague the Wildcats’ goal.


Their labours again paid off soon after, as Šátek again found himself in the thick of the action. This time his deflected shot made its way through a crowded body of players to drop to a waiting Gron, who finished to make it 2-0.


Needing to regroup, Wildcats called a quick timeout to compose themselves and steady the ship.


As play resumed, Phoenix would soon lose a man, as Luke Boothroyd received a penalty for slashing. Now was the chance for Lyle’s men to seize the initiative, something they were acutely aware of.


Aaron Nell and Corey McEwen hit Phoenix on the counter in the centre of the ice, creating space for the in-form Finucci who finished with aplomb; Wildcats now a goal back into the tie.


The tables threatened to turn once more, after both Stevie Whitfield and Neil Liddiard received penalties for roughing and holding respectively, but Wildcats dug in resiliently and saw the five-on-three power play safely out.


With moments left to go in the first, it was the turn of Finucci to again remind everyone why he is the talk of the town. The Canadian worked himself an inch of space and smashed the puck past Stephen Fone between the Phoenix pipes, just before the buzzer echoed around.


The second period was a much calmer affair than its predecessor, with both sides settling into their rhythms.


Wildcats held their lines well and managed to keep the advancing Manchester side at bay early on, but this was to finally be breached in the 31st minute.


Playing the puck around centrally, Phoenix appeared to be stuck for options until James Archer took his chances and struck from distance, beating a helpless Lyle who looked to have his view obstructed by the bodies in front.


As the home crowd roared and filled the arena with a cacophony of drum noise, Wildcats gathered themselves.


Not letting their heads drop, Lyle’s side fought back. Sami Ryhanen saw his effort blocked after cutting in from wide, while likewise McEwen had a follow up shot saved by Fone.


The buzzer sounded, leaving the final period to come precariously poised at 3-2, in a tie which looked more than willing to fall either way. Now was a case of who would pick up the gauntlet, and when.


Incurring an early penalty after Floyd Taylor left the ice for interfering, Wildcats were forced to deal with an immediate power play.


The home crowd roared their side on but Phoenix remained cautious, clearly wary of a Wildcats breakaway, leaving Lyle’s side to see the power play out and return to full strength.


Fifty minutes in, Wildcats made their stand. Attacking on the power play, Adam Harding and Ryhanen linked up to find Tomasz Malasinksi in space.


Not needing a second invitation to shoot, the big forward hit his effort hard and low to beat Fone, setting the scores level at 3-3.


Looking like they could take the tie to over time Wildcats remained as a unit but were unable to prevent Gron, who worked an opening and scored with four minutes left to play.


Needing all hands on deck, Lyle opted to hook himself in favour of an outfield player in search of the comeback.


But it would not pay off. Phoenix held their defensive line and broke on the advancing Wildcats.


As Gron placed the puck in the open goal, the full-time buzzer sounded at 5-3. For Lyle and his side, the wait for a four point weekend goes on.


Man of the Match awards

Stanislav Gron – Manchester Phoenix


Carlo Finucci – Swindon Wildcats


Read what Neil Liddiard had to say to Danny Gallagher post game HERE.



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