Manchester Phoenix 3-2 Milton Keynes Lightning (after penalty shots) BRITISH pair Jack Watkins and Joe Graham saved Manchester Phoenix on Sunday night as they each had a hand in finally cracking a stubborn Milton Keynes defence.

Phoenix, who entered the game with a 13 game home unbeaten streak on the line, went behind early to a Jordan Cownie strike timed at 1.13 and this was to be the only goal until the third period in spite of long periods of Phoenix pressure throughout the game.

With both the top and second line of forwards struggling to find a way past Lightning netminder Stephen Wall, it was a third line combination early in the third period that finally put Phoenix on the board.

Liam Chong and Richard Bentham combined to leave Jack Watkins with time and space to pick his spot over the shoulder of netminder Wall to bring the home side level.

With the momentum swing, Robin Kovar netted on the powerplay four minutes later to give Phoenix the lead only for the Lightning to fight back with a powerplay strike of their own courtesy of Tom Carlon.

There was no decider in the extra overtime period leaving the teams to settle the game in a penalty shoot-out, where in the eighth round of shots, defenceman Joe Graham struck the dramatic winner after netminder Fone saved spectacularly to deny Lightning’s Grant McPherson.

Coupled with a win on Saturday at Slough Jets (5-2) sees Phoenix in pole position at the top of the standings with a 2 point lead over second place Basingstoke, and Tony Hand’s side still have three games in hand.

Player coach Tony Hand said: “Once again we battled hard for the points. All credit to Milton Keynes who came with a system and stuck to it, making things very difficult for us throughout the game.

‘I must applaud all my team tonight for their effort and it was good to see Joe Graham get the winning penalty shot. A four point weekend is just reward for our efforts in Slough and at home this evening.”