By Steven Oldham, Sports Correspondent
Manchester Phoenix’s hopes of winning the EPL league title ended last night as consecutive defeats handed the title to Guildford Flames.
Phoenix went down 2-1 to arch rivals Sheffield Steeldogs on Saturday and were well beaten 5-2 at home by Slough Jets yesterday.
These results, combined with Flames’ 4-3 overtime win against Basingstoke Bison, mean the Surrey team now hold an unassailable lead at the top of the table and pick up their third title since 2006.
Phoenix still have the chance of glory in the playoffs after the regular season has finished but they have four league games to concentrate on before then.
Indeed, Phoenix will be looking over their shoulders as Slough’s victory brings them just two points behind Tony Hand’s team alongside this year’s surprise package Sheffield.
Coach Hand said: “It’s sad to have to relinquish the title, but congratulations to Guildford Flames. We’ll regroup and focus our efforts on building a strong momentum going into the playoffs.”
Hand missed out again yesterday due to a recurring ankle injury, whilst Slava Koulikov briefly returnd from a knee problem albeit to be injured again in yesterday’s first period.
Goals from Juraj Faith and Jaroslav Spelda could not stop Phoenix sliding to defeat against Slough. Darius Plaskauskas added a hat trick to Joe Greener and Aaron Connolly’s earlier efforts which put the visitors 2-0 up.
Faith was again on target on Saturday but similarly Phoenix came unstuck, with Janis Olozins striking his 50th goal of the season before Edgars Berberis scored what proved to be a decisive second.
Ex Phoenix player and Steeldogs’ agitator-in-chief Andre Payette was again involved in ructions with his former employers, after slashing netminder Steve Fone.
Team-mate Ryan Johnson had clearly seen enough and took on Payette, who he tood down ter failing to land a punch. Both men recieved four minutes penalty for the scrap.
This weekend sees Phoenix travel to Swindon Wildcats before hosting new champions Guildford on Sunday night at the Ice Dome.
Undoubtedly the squad will need support this weekend so get down to the Ice Dome on Sunday with the usual start time of 5.30. Tickets available via www.manchesterphoenix.co.uk
Follow Steven Oldham on Twitter - @spoldham