Phoenix reach playoff final after thriller
EPL ICE HOCKEY PLAYOFFS:
Second semi final:
Sheffield Steeldogs 5 Manchester Phoenix 6
(After OT and penalties)
Stephen Wallace was the hero as his penalty shot put Manchester Phoenix into the EPL Playoff Final after a pulsating clash with Sheffield Steeldogs.
He stroked the puck past Ben Bowns in the fourth round of a shootout to seal a 6-5 win.
Phoenix had led 5-2 with 15 minutes remaining before Sheffield produced a stunning comeback.
Two goals in 22 seconds from Andre Payette and Ben Morgan - plus Morgan's second 50 seconds before time - sent a dramatic and sometimes ill-tempered game into overtime.
Clashes between the two are usually white-hot and very physical and this was no different with more than 70 minutes of penalties handed out.
Manchester led 3-1 after a first period packed with incident and excitement.
After only 14 seconds Payette and James Archer went to the box for Slashing and then a few moments later Ladislav Harabin joined them.
Manchester killed the powerplay but as the penalty box opened Greg Wood found Lloyd Gibson in front of goal to give Sheffield the lead.
It was short-lived though as on the 10 minute mark Phoenix converted a powerplay of their own.
This time Harabin and Tom Duggan gave Stephen Wallace no option but to beat Bowns for the equaliser.
But within a couple of minutes, Steeldogs' Ashley Calvert was called a Match Penalty for High Sticking and Manchester took full advantage.
Firstly, Archer scored off Tony Hand and Jaroslav Spelda, then Martin Cingel bagged his 38th of the season for 3-1.
In the second, Sheffield cranked up the heat and finally got their reward when Edgar Bebris tucked up a powerplay chance – his side's fourth of the game.
Phoenix then ran into more penalty trouble and ended up two men down in the 28th minute with both Jaroslav Spelda and Cingel in the box.
But they killed the penalty and punished their opponents.
It was a goal made in Britain, as Ben Wood took a Josh Ward pass, fired it in and the rebound came to a grateful Ciaran Long.
In a contest so evenly matched it was obvious tensions would boil over – and they did at the end of the period.
Several pushes were exchanged between the two sides and then Payette and Long went toe to toe.
And from most observers it seemed the youngster got the best of the master.
After both sides were assessed eight minutes of penalties each, the third got underway and Phoenix extended their lead.
Craig Elliot flicked Stephen Fone's stick away and on the resultant PP Hand combined with Duggan to give Archer his second of the evening on 44:29.
But two goals in 22 seconds put the game on a knife edge with Payette tapping in a rebound on 53:13 and Ben Morgan firing a superb shot from range.
And with just 50 seconds to go – with Ben Bowns pulled for the extra skater – Morgan slammed home his second to send the game into overtime.
After the blood and thunder of 'regulation' it was no surprise overtime was slower – with both Fone and Bowns producing world class saves from Bebris and Archer respectively.
Steeldogs then finished on the Powerplay as Hand was called for Delay of the Game.
But it went to a shootout and after Fone stoned Wood, Payette and Bebris and Bowns Koulikov and Long, it was left for Wallace to send the Phoenix fans wild.