By Steven Oldham, Sports Correspondent
Reigning EPL Champions Manchester Phoenix can retain their crown according to forward Josh Ward – but he admits they need leaders Guildford Flames to make mistakes.
Phoenix currently trail Flames by eight points with eight games left to play, meaning even if they won all their remaining games, Guildford could lose over half of their games and still claim the title.
“It is still possible for us to catch Guildford. I think everyone knows we need them to go on a bad run, but we will keep going. We at least want to make second place ours ahead of the play offs.”
Josh was speaking ahead of tonight’s All Star Game between Phoenix and junior side Trafford Metros.
Fans have been playing in Fantasy Phoenix all season for the chance to pick the squads for tonight’s inter-team competition, which combines normal hockey and a special skills period.
“I’m looking forward to tonight – the lads that were here last year said it was good fun. It’s obviously very entertaining for the fans.”
“I haven’t done anything like this before. The closest thing would be having skills sessions when I was in the juniors. It will be very competitive I’m sure – we play against each other in practice which is always good.”
The All Star Game precedes a crucial double header against the EPL’s bottom team, Telford Tigers, this weekend.
“We’re looking for four points as usual this weekend. Telford is a tough place to visit, we’ve had some trouble playing at their rink. The home games have been a lot better, and we had a great result last time.”
Josh hit his first goal for Phoenix in that game last month (a 9-1 victory), and he has developed a taste for hitting the back of the net.
“It would be nice to get another goal this weekend – I think every player is the same though at this stage of the season. I’ve enjoyed this season in Manchester a lot.”
Last weekend threatened to see Phoenix’s title charge extinguished completely as they won in overtime over Swindon Wildcats at home following a road defeat to the same team the day before.
“Last weekend was tough. Swindon are a good side who can score goals. Sunday’s home game was a lot better – a good performance from the team.”
“It was nice for Luke (Boothroyd, Phoenix captain) to score the winner in overtime. He doesn’t score too many so when he does it’s almost like a reward for all the ones that should go in and don’t.”
With the closing stages of the season upon it, many fans are thinking about who to nominate as their Player of the Year. Josh is sitting firmly on the fence.
“Everyone in the team has their best attributes and have shown these at different points of the season. It’s hard to say who will win, I can’t single out one player.”
The All Star Game ices off tonight at 7.30, whilst Saturday’s league match against Telford starts at 7pm. Tickets are available via www.manchesterphoenix.co.uk, on the door, or in advance from the Altrincham Ice Dome.
Follow Steven Oldham on Twitter – @spoldham