A weakened Manchester Phoenix lost ground in the English Premier League title race this weekend, losing to both Guildford Flames and Peterborough Phantoms.
Phoenix were missing regular netminder Steve Fone and import forward Joachim Flaten through injury, with Coach Tony Hand was in Latvia on international duty with Great Britain.
Title rivals Guildford took advantage of Phoenix’s short bench and triumphed 7-4 on Saturday with Peterborough romping to a 9-4 win a day later.
Stand in player-coach Robert Schnabel said: “Our powerplay was not as effective without Tony’s lead but we battled all night against a good Guildford side.”
Flames took the lead through David Longstaff before Bari McKenzie equalised for Phoenix to ensure the teams were level after the first period.
Guildford established a three goal lead in the second through Branislav Kvetan, Milos Mericherek and Longstaff added his second with less than a minute of the period left.
Ondrej Pozivil’s third period goal gave Phoenix hope, but ex Manchester player Curtis Huppe restored the home team’s three goal advantage in the same minute.
James Archer and Michal Psurny helped themselves to a goal apiece to give the home side something to think about, but Jozef Kohut’s goal quashed any remaining Phoenix hopes of victory.
Captain Luke Boothroyd said: “We looked like getting something from the game in the third period, but their sixth killed that off.”
Phoenix made a second long journey southwards on Sunday to play a Phantoms team they have beaten and lost to twice each in previous meetings this season.
Phantoms went 2-0 up in the opening few minutes, but Phoenix went into the first break 3-2 up.
Liam Chong scored his first goal for Phoenix in the first period, with Archer netting his second in as many days.
Schnabel’s goal before the break proved to be a false dawn as the home side fought back to lead 5-3 after two periods.
Tom Duggan gave Phoenix fans another injury scare, receiving treatment off the ice but returned later in the game.
Phantoms took advantage of a tired Phoenix side in the last period, netting four times. Andy McKinney’s reply briefly halted their progress but his side were well beaten in the end.
Phoenix are still third in the EPL table, with Guildford now top and five points ahead having won both their games this weekend.
Basingstoke Bison slip to second after a surprise 5-4 defeat to strugglers Sheffield Steeldogs after a routine 3-0 win over bottom club Telford Tigers on Saturday.
Tony Hand will be back for Sunday’s reverse game against Flames at the Altrincham Ice Dome. The game starts at 5.30 and tickets are available via www.manchesterphoenix.co.uk
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Photo courtesy of Manchester Phoenix, with thanks