Manchester Phoenix 3 Telford Tigers 6

Manchester Phoenix’ title challenge suffered a setback this weekend after going down to back-to-back defeats for the first time since October last year.

Phoenix found themselves floundering on Sunday night against a resurgent Telford Tigers side, boosted by a number of mid-season signings and making a determined push for the end of season playoff positions.

Manchester came into the game on the back of a bruising encounter away at Sheffield Steeldogs on Saturday night, which saw them lose 4-2 and get involved in a mass on-ice brawl seven seconds from the end.

It was former Phoenix player Scott McKenzie who broke the deadlock, giving Tigers the lead after just two minutes. Phoenix pressurised, but found themselves vulnerable to the breakaway, and it wasn’t until Michal Psurny equalised after 11 minutes that nerves began to settle.

It was the Tigers who profited from a stop-start second period, when Rick Plant regained the lead for Telford with a power play goal on 22 minutes, and Joe Miller put Tigers 3-1 ahead on 29 minutes.

Robert Schnabel pulled another goal back for Phoenix on 35 minutes, but two goals in less than 30 seconds at the end of the period proved a hammer blow to Phoenix. Rick Plant struck again on 39:34, and Adam Walker squeezed in a fifth for Telford as the buzzer went for the end of the period.

Phoenix battled bravely in the third period, but it was clear that Telford’s much deeper bench was paying dividends as all Manchester’s efforts came to nothing. Tony Hand grabbed a third for Phoenix on 46 minutes, but a cruel deflection of the puck off the boards saw goalie Steve Fone stranded behind his net as Mika Kiviranta fired in a short-handed sixth for Telford on 51 minutes.

The result leaves Phoenix still on top of the league, level on points with Basingstoke Bison in second place, but still with three games in hand. Phoenix are at home to Sheffield Steeldogs next Sunday 9 February, starting at 5:30pm.