By Steven Oldham, Sports Correspondent
Manchester Phoenix secured another two priceless points yesterday in the EPL after beating Milton Keynes Lightning 5-2 – their fourth consecutive win against the Buckinghamshire team.
Goals from Ciaran Long, Juraj Faith, Tom Duggan, Ladislav Harabin and top scorer Martin Cingel gave Tony Hand’s team a comfortable win as they chase Guildford Flames down at the top of the EPL.
The game was won in the first ten minutes – Phoenix roared into a three goal lead thanks to goals from Long, Faith and Duggan.
Shellshocked Lightning took the unusual step of calling a time out in the first to regroup – a tactic that saw them play out the rest of the period without conceding.
However, fan favourite Ladzi Harabin was on hand to heap more misery on the visitors – who have slid down the EPL table at a rate of knots in recent weeks – just two minutes into the second.
Obviously fearing a cricket score reverse, Lightning became more physical and as a result got their first goal thanks to Grant McPherson.
Tuomas Tikkanen’s second for the visitors came too little too late for MK, who paid the price for sacrificing netminder Baz Hollyhead as Cingel hit home Phoenix’s fifth in the final minute.
A day earlier, Phoenix hosted Flames in the EPL Cup semi final first leg, a game that ended with honours even at 2-2 ahead of Wednesday’s second leg.
The first period remained goalless, with Phoenix having a goal wiped out by the referee after the puck appeared to bounce out of the net from underneath the crossbar.
Flames took the lead in the second with Jozef Kohut’s opener from a Rick Plant cross, and they headed into the final period with a slender lead.
Phoenix equalised through forward James Archer’s unstoppable shot with an assist from Ciaran Long on 43 minutes.
Flames again took the lead through David Longstaff after a quick break from their defence, before Long levelled the game up with the game’s fourth and final goal.
Captain Luke Boothroyd and Tom Duggan claimed assists for Long’s goal, and both teams missed opportunities to take a lead into the second leg.
Phoenix lie second in the table behind Flames – who walloped Swindon Wildcats 9-1 yesterday. Flames lead the way by 8 points but Phoenix have a game in hand.
Phoenix played both their games this weekend without long term injury absentee Coach Hand and Stephen Wallace, who was injured in the warm up for Saturday night’s game with Flames in the Cup.
Wallace was unable to play after being struck by a puck in the leg.
Man of the match plaudits went to Duggan against Guildford and Boothroyd against MK.
Next up for the Altrincham based team is the away leg of the Cup semi against Guildford on Wednesday. This weekend Phoenix have a double header against Bracknell Bees – away on Saturday and at the Ice Dome on Sunday, with a 5.30 face off.
Tickets are available via www.manchesterphoenix.co.uk or the ice rink.
Follow Steven Oldham on Twitter – @spoldham