The Bracknell Bees made the long trip north to Flyde to take on the Manchester Phoenix for the first time this season in a regular season English Premier League & Cup match.
The Bees went into the game at full strength as did the home side Phoenix. Young Matt Smital was given the start in the Bees net whilst Stephen Fone started the game between the pipes for the Phoenix. Referee Andrew Miller took charge of the match with Scott Ellis and Alice Stanley on the lines.
With both sides seeking their first win of the 2016/17 English Premier Ice Hockey League campaign the game started at a fast pace with both sides looking strong. It was the visiting Bees however that were creating more chances and were on the front foot. With just over seven minutes gone the pressure told as the home side Phoenix picked up a penalty from tripping and Marek Indra made his way off the ice. The resulting power play saw the Bees unlucky not to break the deadlock as the advantage was seen off by the Manchester side despite all the Bees could throw at Stephen Fone in the Phoenix net. Shortly after the penalty had expired the Bees did however manage to find a way past Fone as young Rio Grinnel-Parke scored his first Bracknell Bees goal to give the Bees the lead with just over ten minutes gone in the game. Exactly one minute later the Bees doubled their lead as defenceman Josh Tetlow scored a solo effort over Stephen Fone. Visibly lifted by the two quick fire goals the Bees pushed forward and dominated possession for the final minutes of the period and things looked to have got even better for the Berkshire side as Roman Malinik headed off the ice for high sticks giving the Bees another power play with just over a minute left in the period. The sides saw out the remaining minute of the session with the Bees still on the front foot.
The second period would start with the Bees still holding a minute of power play advantage but they could not make the extra man count and the Phoenix returned to full strength. The home side looked to have settled early in the first period and were battling hard to find a way back into the game and their early pressure told as Marek Indra broke following a turnover and slipped his shot through Matt Smitals pads to narrow the lead with five minutes gone in the second session. More pressure from the Phoenix saw Matt Smital having to be alert to deny both Ben Wood and James Neil before covering a scramble in front of his net too. A tight angle shot from Robin Kovar also came close. Despite the Phoenix pressure the Bees were far from out of the play as both Lukas Smital and Scott Spearing came close. The Manchester side were still controlling the majority of possession and Robin Kovar forced two quick saves from Matt Smital. Carl Thompson came close for the Bees following a good pass from Luka Basic but with Scott Spearing picking up a slashing penalty the home side had their chance to try to level up the scores. Things didn’t go to plan for the Phoenix with the extra man however as Luka Basic picked up the loose puck and skated clear and took the puck round Stephen Fone one on one to extend the Bees lead with a well taken short-handed effort. Ironically the goal seemed to spur on the home side and they pushed forward and started to pepper Matt Smital with efforts from distance and in close. He was equal to all the home side could throw at him as he kept Joni Tuominen, Greg Pick and Jakub Langhammer efforts out. The Bees created chances at the other end of the ice through Matt Foord. Martin Pavlicek and Scott Spearing before they again found themselves a man down as defenceman David Gaborcik was called for tripping with less than two minutes left in the middle stanza. Again however the Bees would deal well with the Phoenix advantage and incredibly broke again short-handed and Luka Basic again made no mistake in converting the chance to extend the Bees lead to three goals. Late Manchester pressure, still with the extra man, was soaked up by the Bees as the period came to a close.
With a three goal lead the Bees were seeking an early goal to extend their lead and potentially seal the game whilst the home side Phoenix needed to narrow the lead quickly in an effort to get something from the game. The sides exchanged early chances as Scott Spearing came close twice and Marek Indra forced a save from Matt Smital. With a little over four minutes gone in the final period and with the Bee again on the front foot Luka Basic fired a quick wrist shot past Stephen Fone in the Phoenix net and the Bees led by four goals. The play settled down somewhat with the teams exchanging possession but with limited chances being created. Matt Smital was in good form in the Bees net and was frustrating the Phoenix efforts. The game was effectively over with just under ten minutes remaining on the game clock as James Galazzi found Scott Spearing well who fired past Stephen Fone for the Bees sixth goal. The Phoenix however did not throw in the towel and only thirty seconds scored their second goal of the evening to narrow the lead back to four goals as a Luke Boothroyd pass was finished by Robin Kovar, who snapped a wrist shot past Matt Smital. The goal saw the Phoenix take the opportunity to change net minders with Stephen Fone being replaced by Denis Bell. The Bees kept up the pressure late on and were rewarded with a seventh goal as Josh Smith rang a shot of the Phoenix post and Krystof Kafan followed up the rebound to net his first Bracknell Bees goal to put the gloss on the win for the travelling Berkshire side.
Man of the match awards went to Bees forward Luka Basic for his hat trick of goals and Marek Indra for the home side Phoenix.
Period scores: 0-2, 1-2, 1-3
Phoenix scorers: Kovar & Indra 1+0; Boothroyd, Neil, Bebris & Baldwin 0+1
Bees scorers: Basic 3+0; Kafan & Grinell-Parke 1+1; Tetlow & Spearing 1+0, Gaborcik 0+2; Galazzi, Stead, Smith, Smital, Barker & Graham 0+1
Phoenix PIMS: 4 (Indra & Malinik 2)
Bees PIMS: 4 (Spearing & Gaborcik 2)
Shots on Phoenix (Fone & Bell): 46 – 41 (20, 10, 11) & 5 (0, 0, 5)
Shots on Bees (M.Smital): 39 (6, 23, 10)