Manchester Phoenix 4 Swindon Wildcats 3

MANCHESTER Phoenix reached the play-off final on Sunday after a great comeback victory over a resilient Swindon Wildcats.

The game started at a furious pace with both teams testing netminders Stephen Fone and Stevie Lyle during the early minutes.

Phoenix took the lead in the eighth minute when Andrew McKinney took advantage of good work by Tony Hand and Michal Psurny to score with a fine shot.

James Archer seemed unlucky to be called for boarding and Wildcats took advantage of the power play to equalise. Sam Smith was the free man in the right place to score.

That finished the scoring in the first period but with both teams committed to attack, the netminders had to face 27 shots between them to keep the game level.

The second period saw even more offence from both teams with heart-stopping moments for both sets of supporters.

Frankie Bakrlik was given a roughing penalty and the impressive Wildcats power play unit gave them the lead with Aaron Nell scoring.

Phoenix hit back in style with possibly the goal of the season by Michal Psurny. After an almost coast to coast skate, he left Swindon trailing in his wake as he bore down the middle and dispatched the puck past Stevie Lyle for 2-2.

Once again, though, Swindon hit back quickly and less than a minute later Jonas Hoog put the Wildcats back in front, assisted by Floyd Taylor and Shane Moore.

The period ended 3-2 to the Wildcats as Phoenix pressed the Swindon defence with Stevie Lyle making three or four excellent saves.

Into the third period and there was no let up in the excitement with Swindon defending their lead and Phoenix flinging everything at the Wildcats’ defence.

The deserved equaliser came with 12 minutes left. Andrew McKinney, having a superb afternoon, scored his second and Phoenix’s third to send their 550 fans wild.

Both teams had great chances to win the game but the teams could not be separated at 3-3 and the game went to overtime.

Phoenix had the better of the extra time and camped in the Swindon zone.

Half way through the period, Swindon defender Aku Pekkarinen was penalised for a hook and Phoenix took advantage of the extra man and Frantisek Bakrlik blasted the winner past the outstanding Stevie Lyle.

The Phoenix end of the rink went absolutely ballistic as their heroes celebrated the win.

Swindon may have been the lower seeds in the contest but they certainly gave their all and contributed to a fine semi-final.

Phoenix man of the match James Archer said after the game: “That was tough. Swindon really came to play and we had to work really hard to get the win.

The two best netminders in the league had great games and showed why they are up there. I thought we played really well as a team and scored great goals. The job is half done, now we will rest and focus on tomorrow’s final.”

Phoenix will play Basingstoke Bison in Sunday’s final after they beat Guildford Flames 5-2 in the second semi-final. Face off is 4pm at the Coventry Skydome.

Phoenix scorers: Andrew McKinney 2, Michal Psurny and Frantisek Bakrlik.