By Steven Oldham, Sports Correspondent
Manchester Phoenix netminder Steve Fone believes the team are ready for the season-ending EPL play offs at the Coventry Skydome this weekend.
Phoenix qualified for the last four by beating Swindon Wildcats 6-1 on aggregate last weekend and play arch-rivals Sheffield Steeldogs tomorrow.
Fone is confident Phoenix can overcome the Steeldogs tomorrow and proceed to Sunday’s final, where they would face the winner of the Guildford Flames vs Slough Jets clash tomorrow afternoon.
He said: “Everyone is fired up for the playoffs. We’re feeling pretty good after last weekend’s performance and feel we owe Sheffield one after some of the results this season.”
Steeldogs have been the surprise package in the EPL this season and have improved on the 2010/2011 campaign, placing third in the final league table. Phoenix won 4 of the 6 regular season games over their Yorkshire rivals.
Steve admits he expects a tough game but expects the team’s rivalry to provide a thrilling game for spectators.
“The rivalry will definitely make for an entertaining game – it makes it a bit more special. We’ve got the belief that we can make the final though.”
“If we do get through tomorrow’s game, I don’t really mind who we play on Sunday – to win trophies you have to beat the best teams.”
Phoenix will be icing with a full squad this weekend – a rare occurrence this year in a season plagued with injuries to key personnel including player/coach Tony Hand and Ladzi Harabin.
There is also the added incentive that this is the last chance Phoenix have to win some silverware this season after Guildford clinched a League and Cup double.
“Obviously it will help having a full squad. It will give us more depth, and none of the guys will have to play out of position – we will be that little bit fresher because of that.”
“Would it have helped us win the title if we didn’t have so many injuries? It would have made it closer, but I’m not sure it would have been enough to catch Guildford – we’ll never know.”
“We’re expecting a lot of support and the Phoenix fans are always the noisiest down at Coventry – it does give you an extra push and hopefully that’s will spur us on to win the trophy.”
Phoenix reached Coventry by winning both legs of their clash with the in-form Swindon Wildcats last weekend – 2-1 away followed by a convincing 4-0 home victory.
“We always knew if we could keep it tight at their rink we could do it at home. When we hit the first goal on Sunday their heads dropped. We were expecting a tough weekend given they were the form team of the league.”
“It was a good solid team effort from front to back and it was nice to get a clean sheet – the first one I’ve kept in the playoffs.”
The playoffs is the last ice hockey action of the season, but keep your eyes on MM over the summer for the latest developments at the Altrincham Ice Dome.
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