Updated: Saturday, 25th May 2019 @ 8:13am

Back to back War of the Roses clashes for Manchester Phoenix

Back to back War of the Roses clashes for Manchester Phoenix

By Steven Oldham, Sports Correspondent

Manchester Phoenix and arch-rivals Sheffield Steeldogs are set to clash twice within a week in the English Ice Hockey Premier League.

The teams – who play each other in an annual War of the Roses trophy game – meet in Sheffield on Saturday, with the return on Thursday night at the Ice Dome.

Phoenix were triumphant in the pre season game but crucial league and cup points are at stake this time.

Forward Slava Koulikov said: “It’s a local derby and they are a much better team this year. They are physical and hard-working. We know what they are all about and we will have to be at our best.”

Teammate Ladislav Harabin is looking to make a comeback for the Bonfire night clash, after sustaining a heavy facial injury against Guilford Flames last week.

Phoenix had feared the Slovakian would be out of action for much longer, but some good news finally seems to be coming to the Ice Dome.

The EPL Champions are on a miserable run of five defeats in seven games, and have slipped into the bottom half of the table.

Coach Tony Hand will be without summer signing Jaroslav Spleda for another few weeks, but is keen to distance the team from excuses.

He said: “I don’t want to harp on about injuries as it happens to every team. It’s just part of the game and we will battle on.”

“Ben Wood and Luke Boothroyd were fantastic over the weekend, in fact the whole defence were great and everybody is stepping up to the plate. It will be tough against Sheffield as they have improved considerably this season.”

Phoenix travel to Sheffield tomorrow for an early faceoff – 1pm – due to Bonfire night celebrations.   The return leg is on Thursday at 7.30 at the Altrincham Ice Dome.  Tickets are available on the door or through www.manchesterphoenix.co.uk