The Cardiff Devils chances of defending their Challenge Cup trophy are alive but only just. In another weekend of mediocrity, the Devils followed up their overtime loss at IAW to Guildford by snatching a narrow victory on the road to Coventry Blaze.
On Saturday night the Devils lined up in front of another almost capacity crowd. In a very even first period there was no score although the Devils had to go on the penalty kill twice after Joey Martin was called for minor penalties. The Devils took the lead through Andrew Hotham after a long scramble in front of the Guildford goal. Hotham eventually managing to get the puck loose and tuck it away. The Guildford players seemed a little aggrieved that play was not stopped prior to the goal with a pile of players on the floor.
The Devils weren’t ahead for long with Ian Watters tying the game up. This time the Devils players complained of a high stick. The officials reviewed the goal and it was adjudged as good. There were no more goals in the second period but it didn’t take the Flames long into the third to take the lead. Man of the match Carl Ackered scoring the goal that put Guildford in the driving seat. The Devils left it late to strike back but scored with a little under 5 minutes of the game remaining. Even though the rest of period 3 remained scoreless you could sense the Devils fans believed this was theirs to win in overtime, despite this being an abject display at best. Unfortunately, just 27 seconds into overtime the Flames clinched it. Playing 3 on 3 the Devils overcommitted and although they went close they were then caught on the break and a routine finish from Jesse Craige ended the contest.
On Sunday the Devils and their Red Army of supporters travelled up the M5 to Coventry and the players and coaching staff knew only a win would be enough to enable them to believe that they can still win the cup. After a scoreless first period, the Devils took the lead on a 5 on 3 a powerplay with big defenceman Drew Paris firing in. The lead was doubled later in the period when Jake Morissette found Paul Crowder to finish off. The score remained 2-0 to the Devils going into the 3rd period. The Blaze pulled a goal back at the start of the third when they were able to force a 5 on 3 powerplay of their own. The Devils stepped it up again and player/coach Andrew Lord re-established the 2-goal lead. The Blaze didn’t know when to give up and bounced straight back with a goal of their own from Jordan Pietrus. For the second night running defensive lynchpin, Andrew Hotham stepped up to defend one of his own. On Saturday he dropped the gloves when Mark Richardson took a stick to the face and this time Justin Faryna was hit high. Hotham went after the culprit Dannick Paquette and was thrown out of the game for slashing with Paquette thrown out for checking to the head.
The end of the game saw the Devils hanging on but fortunately, they brought home 2 points. A bit like marmite Patrick Bordeleau divided Devils fans last term, but I for one believe that we are missing his threat. Many times, last season teams so-called “Hard men” backed down when Bordy decided to pop up. This season without a real enforcer I believe teams are no longer worried about mixing it up with the Devils. Unfortunately, when it’s your most skilful and dangerous defenseman dropping the gloves or going after players to protect his own, you run the risk of him being thrown out of the game. I’m sure this is something that opposing coaches will be encouraging. Something for Devils fans to ponder.
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Down in NIHL 1, the Cardiff Fire endured a very difficult trip to London to face the Raiders. After signs of improvement last weekend and the injuries seemingly subsiding, unfortunately, the Fire only had 12 players and 2 netminders. Injuries, suspensions and work commitments taking their toll. When this short benched it was always an uphill task for the Fire. The players put up a gallant effort and took the lead very early in the game but then conceded twice in the first period. Again, early in the second, the Fire scored to tie the match at 2-2. They scored a third during the second period but the Raiders scored 4 taking a 6-3 lead into the final period. In the third the lack of players and extra ice minutes finally caught up and the Fire lost the period 5-1, to lose the game 11-4. Cardiff Fire still stood strong with forward Sam Bryant dropping the gloves with Raiders youngster Brandon Ayliffe. Both players received 2 plus 2 for fighting.
Some breaking news for our readers Sam Bryant has agreed to an interview with Y-Ddraig. This should be coming in the next week with young defenseman Elis Sheppard also already agreed to answer some questions for us.