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Back-to-back wins over the Swindon Wildcats and Milton Keynes Lightning saw Manchester Phoenix reclaim top spot in the English Premier League at the weekend.
Phoenix travelled to Wiltshire on Saturday looking to bounce back from an 8-2 blowout loss to the Bracknell Bees. James Archer set them on their way by dekeing past Wildcats goalie Stevie Lyle near the end of the first period.
Swindon pulled level midway through the second period through Ryan Watt but it took just two minutes for Phoenix to regain the lead. Frankie Bakrlik’s pass put Michal Psurny one-on-one with Lyle and the Czech sniper made it 2-1.
Psurny grabbed a second near the end of the period with Phoenix on the penalty kill. A superb pass from playmaker extraordinaire Tony Hand gave Psurny the chance the EPL’s top marksman made no mistake.
Liam Chong extended Manchester’s lead to 4-1 with a wraparound goal just under seven minutes into the final period. The Wildcats pulled one back on the power play through Jan Kostal but Phoenix took home the two points.
Tony Hand’s side welcomed Milton Keynes to the Altrincham Ice Dome the following night and it was the boss who opened the scoring in the first period with bullet from the blueline, assisted by assisted by James Neil and Bakrlik.
The Lightning equalised on the power play through Stanslav Lascek but the visitors pulled back in front 7.43 into the second period with their own power play goal, courtesy of Psurny.
Phoenix suffered a blow shortly after when Bakrlik was harshly thrown out of the game for a check to the head on Adam Carr. Carr returned to action after missing a few shifts and the call was downgraded to a game penalty.
Not long into the five-minute penalty, Phoenix defeceman Robert Schnabel was sent to the box for delay of game after flipping the puck over the glass – but Phoenix managed to kill the long five-on-three.
Phoenix then shocked the Lightning with a quick-fire double early in the third stanza to wrap up the contest. Schnabel blasted the third after a pass from Psurny before Richard Bentham made it 4-1 as Manchester finished the weekend at the summit of the EPL.
After the game, Phoenix man of the match James Neil said: “MK always give us a hard game and tonight was no exception. We took our chances and it is a good feeling to go back to top of the league as we head towards Christmas.”
Phoenix’s next game is on 21 December away to the Peterborough Phantoms, who will be playing their first game under new coach – and former Phoenix favourite – Slavia Koulikov, who has joined the club from Slough Jets.
Tony Hand’s charges return to home ice the following night for a huge clash with second place Guildford Flames as they look to consolidate their position at the top of the EPL.
Saturday 7 December
Basingstoke Bison 5-1 Telford Tigers
Braknell Bees 8-7 Sheffield Steeldogs
Milton Keynes Lightning 5-4 Peterborough Phantoms
Slough Jets 6-3 Guildford Flames
Swindon Wildcats 2-4 Manchester Phoenix
Sunday 8 December
Guildford Flames 3-4 Basingstoke Bison
Manchester Phoenix 4-1 Milton Keynes Lightning
Peterborough Phantoms 3-5 Slough Jets
Sheffield Steeldogs 1-2 Swindon Wildcats
Telford Tigers 5-6 Bracknell Bees
Pic: Andrew Sobutta