Updated: Wednesday, 16th April 2014 @ 6:11pm

Manchester Phoenix return to top of English Premier League with penalty shootout victory over Milton Keynes Lightning

Manchester Phoenix return to top of English Premier League with penalty shootout victory over Milton Keynes Lightning

By Steven Oldham

Manchester Phoenix are once again leading the EPL following last night's penalty shootout victory over Milton Keynes Lightning, having lost the lead  to Basingstoke Bison, who beat the Altrincham club 3-1 on Saturday.

Phoenix returned to the summit however thanks both to their 3-2 penalty shootout victory over Lightning and Basingstoke's 6-2 away defeat at reigining champions Guildford Flames.

The EPL continues to be incredibly competitive, with just two points seperating the top five - Phoenix, Slough Jets, Flames, Bison and Bracknell Bees.

Andy McKinney opened the scoring after five minutes with assists from Richard Bentham and Ciaran Long following a bright start from the home team.

Ciaran Long received a match penalty for a misjudged challenge on Lighting defender Dan Harris which saw the latter struck on the head.

Harris needed to be helped from the ice but was able to watch the rest of the game from the bench.

McKinney and MK's Grant McPherson squared off following Harris' injury, with the Phoenix man coming out on top. While both players recceived penalties for roughing, McPherson was given an extra ten minute penalty for starting the fight, which to add insult to injury, he lost.

Lighting assistant captain Leigh Jaimeson equalised for his team midway through the second period, and Lightning could have taken the lead had it not been for the work of Steve Fone in the Phoenix goal.

Phoenix again took the lead in the final period, with McKinney scoring his second of the game thanks to the hard work of Scott McKenzie, whose pass helped McKinney sweep the puck into the away net.

Lighting did strike twice though, and equalised again through their captain Adam Carr with less than four minutes remaining, and overtime beckoned after neither team could make the breakthrough.

Overtime came and went with no decisive goal, so a penalty shootout was needed to decide the winner.

Michal Psurny was the only player to convert his penalty, with McKinney and team-mate Joachim Flaten off target. Fortunately for Phoenix, all three of Lighting's penalty takers - Carr, Adam Calder and Blaz Emersic - missed, giving the Altrincham club the win.

On Saturday, Phoenix travelled to the much-strengthened Basingstoke Bison, but fell behind with less than three minutes on the board as Joe Rand opened the scoring for the home team.

Stevie Lyle in the Bison goal was in top form to deny James Neil a goal on four minutes, and Basingstoke doubled their lead through player-coach Doug Sheppard after a mistake from Ondrej Pozivil, who slipped whilst trying to clear the puck.

Phoenix hit a goal back through Ciaran Long in the second, with assists for Bentham and McKinney, but Long's close control before hitting the puck home proved to be the only highlight for Tony Hand's team.

Sheppard hit his second - and the game's final - goal on the powerplay in the second period and despite seeing a lot of the puck in the final period, Phoenix could not get through the steely Bison defence.

This weekend, Phoenix travel to second place Slough Jets before hosting Bracknell Bees on Sunday night at the Ice Dome. The game starts at 5.30 and tickets are available from www.manchesterphoenix.co.uk

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Photo credit: Richard Allen