Manchester Phoenix 5 Basingstoke Bison 2
MANCHESTER Phoenix won their second EPL title with a thrilling 5-2 win over nearest rivals Basingstoke Bison.
The first 10 minutes of the first period was a tense affair with both sides committing 100 per cent to the cause.
Huge hits and great break-out play kept the fans on the edge of their seats. Phoenix took the lead on when James Archer swept a superb pass from Michal Psurny past the helpless Dean Skinns for 1-0.
Bison upped their game and after a couple of good saves from Stephen Fone, Andrew Melachrino found the puck, which had slipped from Fone’s jersey, and tapped it into the net. Goal timed at 17.16 and assists awarded to Matt Selby and Michael Wales.
The second began at a furious pace and determined play by Bison put Phoenix under a bit of pressure.
After weathering the storm, the home side raised the roof with a typical goal from Robert Schnabel.
Great play by Michal Psurny and Tony Hand sent the puck back to the waiting Schnabel who sent his shot past Skinns.
The large crowd were, as they had been since warm up, shouting their heroes on and with 34 minutes gone, James Archer passed to Tony Hand who slipped the puck goal wards where it found a totally unmarked Michal Psurny with all the time in the world to tap the puck into the net without a Bison defender in sight.
The Phoenix title-winning lead lasted just 60 seconds as Joe Rand pulled a goal back for Bison, assisted by Andrew Melachrino.
This was a night Phoenix were not going to be outdone and once again they achieved the lead that was required with a Tony Hand goal on 37 minutes.
The third period was one that was not for the faint hearted.
The crowd, ably led by the ‘Choir Boys’, sang their hearts out for the team as they battled a fighting Bison team that was not going to give up the game easily.
With the clock running down and the crowd up on their feet all round the rink, Bison pulled their netminder to try and retrieve the situation.
Play broke down on the right wing and Robin Kovar sent the puck down the ice from his own blue line.
An agonising two or three seconds ensued with the crowd holding their breath as the puck crossed the line into the empty net for 5-2.
The noise was deafening as the officials ran the clock down and the Phoenix bench cleared and made a bee-line for Stephen Fone who was swamped by delirious players celebrating winning the league title.
The celebrations seemed to go on forever and credit to Bison for waiting around for the post game handshakes as the delighted Phoenix took the applause.
A delighted player coach Tony Hand said after the game: “We knew it was going to be a battle all night.
“Basingstoke are a quality side and were always going to make it tough. I thought we took our chances at the right time.
“Great credit to every man on the team, they have worked so hard all season to get to where we are. Delighted for them and for the fans.
“They have been behind us every game and they make this a great place to play. Now we will turn our attention to completing the league and defending our play-off title.”
Robert Schnabel added:” It is a fantastic feeling, to win for these fans. They are great and the best I have played for in my career and that has been a long career.”
Phoenix Scorers: James Archer, Robert Schnabel, Michal Psurny, Tony Hand and Robin Kovar