Manchester Phoenix 2 Sheffield Steeldogs 3

Manchester Phoenix suffered their second home defeat on the run on Sunday night, when they lost narrowly to Sheffield Steeldogs.

Phoenix came into the game on the back of a priceless road win at reigning league champions Guildford Flames, knowing that Sheffield, who had beaten Phoenix the previous week at Ice Sheffield, would be a tougher nut to crack because of their disruptive, uncompromising style.

And so it proved, as Phoenix struggled to settle into any kind of rhythm. It took 15 minutes to break the deadlock, when Robin Kovar struck with a wraparound goal. Jack Watkins doubled the lead two minutes later after capitalising on a defensive error.

Phoenix looked secure, but a defensive howler from Joe Graham allowed Lubomir Korhon to grab a goal back for Steeldogs with seconds remaining in the first period.

Sheffield came out for the second period with all guns blazing, and struck twice within a minute to take the lead. Greg Wood tied the game on 22 minutes, and Korhon gave Sheffield the go-ahead goal 51 seconds later. Phoenix were then chasing the game, but Sheffield effectively shut the game down, relying on the occasional breakaway. For the rest of the period Phoenix were drawn into a series of messy minor penalties - including Robert Schnabel, who took two separate 2+2 roughing penalties – and found it impossible to regain any momentum.

The third period continued in the same vein, with Phoenix unable to unlock the hard-working Sheffield defence. A late power play saw Phoenix pull Steve Fone for the extra skater, but even a six on four power play did not yield a goal and Steeldogs took the points for the second time in just over seven days.

Again, Phoenix were fortunate in that rivals Basingstoke Bison also lost, meaning Phoenix remain in top spot on goal difference. Phoenix are at home to Milton Keynes Lightning on Thursday 13 February in the second leg of their EPL Cup semi-final, and at home again on Saturday 15 February against Peterborough Phantoms.