MANCHESTER Phoenix have another two tough games this coming weekend as they continue their mission to win the EPL title.
A long trip to Basingstoke is first up tomorrow, Saturday, to take on the Bison in a table-topping clash. The teams are neck and neck in the table, both having 62points.
Phoenix do have three games in hand but would much rather have the points in the bag.
Bison have hit top form of late, with cup victory over Guildford Flames and a four-point weekend last time out, scoring 13 goals in the process.
The teams have met four times this season and the series is tied at 2-2 with both sides winning their home games. With this game and another match up at the Dome, Saturday’s game will be pivotal for both sides.
Bison look a well balanced side this year with Dean Skinns having a great season between the pipes. He is well supported by an experienced blue line corps of Kurt Reynolds, Miroslav Vantroba and Carl Graham.
Up front, Tomas Karpov has hit 31 goals to top their scoring charts with Joe Rand on 23 and Joe Greener on 21 goals respectively. Michael Wales and Nicky Chinn provide the old experienced heads on the forwards roster.
Phoenix bounced back to form last weekend and go to Hampshire in great spirits for what should be a great game.
On Sunday, the enigma that is Bracknell Bees head to the Dome for the last time this season.
An up and down season for the Bees seems to be taking shape as they battle for a play-off place and they have won their last five games, including two on the road. Phoenix have won both home fixtures this season, the first being a nail biting penalty shot win and a comfortable 7-3 win in the second fixture.
Bracknell have played recently with only three imports, two of which are on the defence, and this has diminished their attacking efforts. However Shaun Thompson and Ollie Bronnimann have stepped up with 22 and 25 goals respectively to complement veteran Lukas Smital on the first line. Smital was appointed head coach when Gareth Cox left the team and has steadied the ship.
With a good netminder tandem in Alex Mettam and Tom Annetts, solid defence through Tony Redmond and imports Jan Bendik and Pavel Strycek, they will again provide a tough task for Phoenix.
One to watch on the Bees team will be youngster Ivan Antonov who has grasped his chance recently with four goals.
Phoenix will fancy their chances in this game, but as always coach Tony Hand will have them well prepared for the game.
Hand said: “Once again it will be a tough weekend. When are they not?
“Basingstoke are having a great season and a game on their big ice is challenging. They appear to have a slightly easier run in than us so it is important for us to pick up some points this weekend.
“Bracknell too, have found form and are making a determined run at the play-offs and we will again have to be at our best. This weekend will not decide anything but we are ready and focussed for the run in.
“The team played very well at Telford and I am looking for that form to continue.”
Sunday’s home game against Bracknell Bees has the usual face off 5.30pm.