By Steven Oldham, Sports Correspondent
Manchester Phoenix attacker Josh Ward believes the Altrincham based club can extend their eight game winning streak as they face EPL leaders Guildford Flames twice this weekend.
Phoenix’s unbeaten run has seen them defeat Milton Keynes Lighning (three times), Basingstoke Bison, Telford Tigers, Bracknell Bees, Peterborough Phantoms and Slough Jets in the past month.
This weekend sees Phoenix play top of the table Flames home and away – with Guildford’s form slipping of late, meaning 4th placed Phoenix are just six points behind.
Josh said: “It’s definitely possible for us to get four points this weekend. We’re in the best position to beat Guildford – much better than we have been at any other point this season.”
“Confidence is very high in the squad at the moment.”
It is no coincidence that Phoenix’s good form has coincided with a reduced injury list at the Ice Dome – key players including Jaroslav Spelda and Tom Duggan have recently returned from injury.
Coach Tony Hand – recently announced as GB men’s coach – remains on the sidelines at the moment.
“Hopefully it won’t be long before Tony’s back on the ice. We were all really pleased for him when he got the Great Britain job and happy he’s staying at Phoenix too,” said Josh.
“It definitely helps having a more settled team. We had a rough couple of months where we had one injury after another."
Since a 9-0 mauling at Slough Jets, Phoenix have remained unbeaten and Josh sees this match as a turning point of the season.
“The Slough game was definitely a wakeup call. It made us realise again that teams up their game against us – we’re Manchester, reigning champions and we’re the team everyone wants to thrash.”
The EPL table is very close at the top – results this weekend could see Phoenix go second.
“It’s definitely possible for us to win the league this season. One team I think could really challenge us is Milton Keynes. We’ve had some tough games against them recently and there’s a bit of a rivalry forming there.”
Ward – in his first season at Phoenix after moving from Nottingham Panthers in the summer close season – believes the Phoenix faithful have a key role to play in continued success for Phoenix.
“We really appreciate the fans’ support. Hopefully there will be a big crowd on Saturday – it’d be nice to see a full house! I think we’ve attracted some new fans with the good form recently and it’s good to see some new faces in the stands.”
“I’ve found it really easy to settle in Manchester – it was a big change for me coming here as I’ve never played in the EPL before but the team, club and the fans have made me really welcome. It’s been a very easy transition."
Josh and the rest of the Phoenix squad host Guildford on Saturday at the Ice Dome with face off at 7pm.
Tickets are available via www.manchesterphoenix.co.uk or at the ticket office.