Nottingham took on Manchester Lady Phoenix at the National Ice Centre today in what turned out to be a fantastic end to end game with Nottingham only confirming both points in the final minute of the game.
Nottingham head coach Ryan Rathbone had the chance to ice an almost full strength team today, with Rebecca Speckman coming back to the Vipers nest. What a difference a full team made, as the Vipers flew out of the blocks in direct contrast to the recent Telford game. Manchester seemed to be having some problems getting their full roster to the bench, as players kept arriving throughout the first period. Nevertheless, they stood tall against a Nottingham team who were throwing everything they had at Manchester netminder Stephanie Drinkwater, who came up with some great saves to keep the Vipers at bay. The Phoenix were finally beaten at 8:31 with a second goal of the season for the ever-present third liner Kendra Hourd, who found herself unmarked at the back door to slot home after controlling a pinpoint pass from Vipers alternate captain Michelle Peat. The score board wouldn’t stay still for long, as exactly one minute later Rebecca Speckman delightedly announced her return, firing unassisted past a shell-shocked Manchester goalie. Both teams traded tripping penalties around the 10 minute mark, with neither team mustering anything of note on the special teams. In fact, Nottingham’s goalie Holly Steeples enjoyed a very quiet period thanks to shrewd defending by the Vipers defence, who only allowed her to face 3 shots all period, which she saved with ease.
With Manchester finally able to boast a larger bench, Nottingham stopped having it all their own way in the 2nd period as the Phoenix began to take flight. They clawed one back at 18:13, a superb solo effort from Zuzana Zauadiloua. Not to be deterred, Nottingham pushed forward and drew a tripping penalty from the Manchester Captain. On the ensuing delayed penalty, Nottingham’s Robin Mullen drove the net hard, forcing a save from Manchester’s goalie. The puck seemed to be loose, and everyone piled in forcing Manchester’s netminder back into her crease. With the goal judge unable to see if the puck had crossed the line, it was left to Refereeing duo P Braisby and J Susters to deem if the puck had indeed slid into the net with goalie Stephanie Drinkwater. They wasted little to no time awarding the goal, awarding it to Robin Mullen with the assist going to Captain Julia Coughill at 19:01. The teams again traded powerplay chances, but that was to prove to be the end of the scoring in a much more even second period, with Nottingham facing 12 shots to Manchester’s 11.
The third period started off relatively tamely, both teams traded shots on goal but seemed unable to score the goal that would either put the game to bed or reignite the comeback. Manchester was to be the team to strike, as Emma Middleton broke down the wing. Nottingham defenseman Rebecca Meats did a sterling effort forcing her wide, but Middleton fired a pinpoint shot from an acute angle, flying over netminder Steeples glove into the top corner at 38:38. The comeback was on, and from the ensuing face off the Nottingham defence pinched too high, leaving the Nottingham goalie to face a two on one break which she came desperately close to clearing off the line to tie the game 3-3 at 38:57. The Phoenix had well and truly risen from the ashes, and must have been confident of taking at least a point from the National Ice Centre as the clock wound down. This looked to be the case, until coach Rathbone wisely used his timeout to try and rescue both points. In the last 24 seconds of the game, Robin Mullen stole the puck off the manchester defence after great effort by Nottingham’s top line, and found the back of the net for her second of the night, prompting celebrations on the Vipers bench. Nottingham held on for the remaining few seconds, and skated away with a well earned two points in a 4-3 game. Spirit of the game went to Natalie Clare, who was playing her first game on D for the club, using her strong skating to great effect to help keep the Phoenix at bay.