Updated: Monday, 24th February 2020 @ 9:21pm

One win and one defeat for inconsistent ice hockey champions Manchester Phoenix

One win and one defeat for inconsistent ice hockey champions Manchester Phoenix

By Steven Oldham, Sports Correspondent 

Manchester Phoenix’s weekend in the EPL started well with a convincing victory over Bracknell Bees before they lost yesterday to Basingstoke Bison. 

Tony Hand’s squad travelled to Bracknell on Saturday and came away with a comprehensive 6-2 victory over their opponents, but were beaten 4-3 by the Bison yesterday teatime. 

Despite a number of the team being hit by a sickness bug, and still missing Hand and Stephen Wallace through injury, Phoenix never looked in danger of losing to the Bees. 

They took the lead through Slava Koulikov after 15 minutes, taking advantage of Bracknell being a man down through penalties.  Captain Luke Boothroyd and Juraj Faith claimed assists. 

Phoenix held a slender 1-0 lead into the second period, where the floodgates opened with four goals all but winning the game for the visitors. 

Faith netted the first of his two goals after 25 minutes, with help from Koulikov and Martin Cingel, and Phoenix stamped their superiority on the game soon after with Tom Duggan making it 3-0 with assists from James Archer and Boothroyd. 

Jaroslav Spelda helped Phoenix capitalise on a powerplay with a strong shot and at 4-0 the hosts must have been fearing an embarrassing rout. 

Their blushes were spared momentarily by Lukas Smital’s consolation, but the fact Bees could not take advantage of a two man advantage for Phoenix penalties tells you all you need to know. 

Bracknell received many penalties for overly aggressive play in the period and Faith made them pay, hitting his second on yet another Phoenix powerplay. 

Alex Barker gave the home fans the faintest of hopes for a comeback in the third period, but Cingel’s last minute goal secured a vital win for Hand and his team. 

Phoenix welcomed Basingstoke on Sunday but fell to a 4-3 defeat, which keeps them 5th in the EPL table as they attempt to defend their title. 

 It all started so well for Phoenix with Koulikov opening the scoring for the second time in as many days in the first with assists from Spelda and Faith. 

The home side were 2-0 up in ten minutes as Cingel hit home following good teamwork from Koulikov and Spelda to set the Slovakian up. 

Viktor Kubenko’s missile of a shot brought the visitors back into the game, leaving Stephen Fone no chance in the Phoenix net. 

Kubenko was instrumental in Bison’s victory, hitting his second just before the half hour following a relentless spell of pressure from the visitors. 

As so often happens in sport, an ex player came back to haunt his old club – Joe Miller took Bison’s third, but fan favourite Ladzi Harabin equalised the game almost immediately. 

With the game delicately poised at 3-3, Nicky Chinn sank Phoenix after 46 minutes, with the hosts sacrificing Fone in the final stages to press for overtime. 

Sadly for Phoenix, no goal was forthcoming and the EPL Champions are without a double winning weekend since September. 

They need to start picking up four point weekends quickly if they are to catch Guildford Flames, who are eight points ahead of them at the top.

This weekend, Phoenix host Guildford at the Ice Dome on Sunday, before travelling to Peterborough Phantoms on Sunday. 

Tickets for the Guildford game are available on www.manchesterphoenix.co.uk or via the ticket office.  Saturday’s game starts at 7pm.