Phoenix at the double

MANCHESTER, UK – MANCHESTER Phoenix secured their first four-point weekend of the season with back to back wins over Sheffield Steeldogs and Swindon Wildcats. Michal Psurny made crucial contributions in both matches as his side rose to second in the English Premier League table. The Czech’s third of the season in the first period last night put daylight between the Phoenix and Swindon – but Stephen Fone was stellar between the pipes to keep the Wildcats at bay and earn a 5-4 win. Manchester flew out of the blocks to put pressure on their opponents but it took a fight between James Archer and Ryan Watt to spark both sides. Phoenix reacted the better and Andrew McKinney got on the end of an excellent Scott McKenzie cross for the first goal. Swindon equalised in the tenth minute as Jonas Hoog got the better of Fone but within a couple of minutes McKenzie has restored the advantage. Then it got better as Psurny took Tony Hand’s superb ‘behind the net’ pass to make it 3-1. Matias Perkkio pulled one back for the Wildcats at the back end of the period but within six of the second, Luke Boothroyd slotted home McKenzie’s feed on the powerplay. Phoenix were in total control by then and Ciaran Long’s fantastic solo effort on 28 minutes underlined the home side’s dominance. The Wildcats weren’t done though and a shorthanded Aaron Nell effort brought them right back into it. Long was then penalised for a poor head shot and whilst Phoenix readjusted their lines Fone had to stand on his head to quell the danger. But a goal was always coming and just two minutes into the third Watt made it 5-4. Swindon threw everything they could at the Phoenix’ backline and were unlucky at death as a ‘goal’ was chalked off because players had transgressed into Fone’s crease. But that would have been harsh on Manchester who also hit the post a couple of times to back up an excellent 4-2 win over at Sheffield on Friday. After goalless first and second periods, the game exploded into life.   Phoenix took the lead with just 103 seconds on the clock in the third when the first line found a way past the resolute Sheffield defence. Hand combined with Psurny for Joachim Flaten to whistle a shot into the net. Andre Payette equalised on the powerplay, but Hand restored the lead moments later. And with less than five minutes to go he set up Archer for his first of the season. Derek Campbell pulled one back but Robert Schanbel’s late powerplay goal sealed victory. To contact the author email: Mike.Appleton@prohockeynews.com

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