Manchester Phoenix will commence battle in the annual War of the Roses games at Sheffield Steeldogs on Friday night despite a limited amount of pre-season training.
The Phoenix then return to the Ice Dome for the second leg on Sunday night and will be desperate to regain the Rose Bowl, having lost 8-6 on aggregate in last year’s contest despite winning a bruising second leg 4-3 in front of a home crowd.
The Manchester side have now endured two consecutive Roses defeats and player-coach Tony Hand was keen to stress his side were the underdogs again.
“We are coming into this off just one or two big training sessions, so we are about a month behind Sheffield,” he said.
!We really are behind the eight-ball for this game. Of course we want to win, but it’s also an exercise to get us ready for next week against Bracknell Bees.”
Sheffield’s Andre Payette was in a fighting mood when he told Steeldogs TV that he is determined to seal a third win.
“We don’t like to lose to Manchester, and we have no intention of losing to them. We’ll be playing to win; we’ve won two years in a row and we’re going to win three.”
The traditional pre-season fixture will signal the beginning of the Phoenix’s campaign to go one step further than last season, when they lost in the final of the EPIHL play-offs to Basingstoke Bison back in April, having topped the table comfortably during the regular season.
By contrast, the Steeldogs’ Rose Bowl victory represented perhaps their greatest success of the season, as a number of defeats towards the back end of the season saw them finish a disappointing seventh in the EPIHL.
The first game will face off at 7:45pm tonight at iceSheffield, before the return leg on Sunday September 7 at 5:30pm at the Ice Dome, Manchester.
Main image courtesy of officialphoenix via YouTube, with thanks.