Written by Julian Blackburn
Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd October
The Cardiff Devils had another mixed bag of a weekend in the Elite League. They went down 4-0 on the road to bitter rivals the Sheffield Steelers on Saturday night, before bouncing back with a home victory against the Nottingham Panthers on Sunday night at another sell out at IAW.
On Saturday night the usually dependable Ben Bowns gifted the Steelers their first goal with a dreadful mistake. Bowns misplaced a pass and the end result was Colton Fretter firing into the empty net. It didn’t get any better for the lack lustre Devils before the 1st break with Matt Marquardt doubling the Steelers advantage.
In the second period the Steelers scored again through Andreas Jamtin to increase their advantage and when they scored their fourth and Marquardt’s second of the game, on the powerplay in the final period, the Devils were never coming back.
This powerplay goal from the Steelers was the only one they converted from 5 chances with the extra man, although the Devils had 6 powerplay chances and squandered every one. This is just another area that last year’s Devils were so dominant at and this season seems to be faltering. The Devils also allowed their bitter rivals to score a short-handed goal.
For Cardiff born Steelers Captain Jonathan Phillips this must have been a nice moment. Often on the losing side in last year’s fixtures, I’m sure he was expecting a much sterner test from his former side.
Phillips enjoyed his testimonial year with the Steelers last year and the Devils very own testimonial man #17 Mark Richardson was unable to take to the ice over the weekend along with #23 Patrick Asselin and #81 Justin Faryna. This may have been part of the reason for such a disjointed performance on Saturday night. But with the same players on Sunday on home ice the Devils put in a much better shift and ended up 6-2 winners.
With the chips down and fans left disappointed from the evening before Captain Mo produced a magnificent performance against the Nottingham Panthers, helping himself to a hattrick along the way. Jake Morissette opened the scoring just after 5 minutes and this was how the first period ended.
The Devils stepped things up in the second period to take a strangle hold in the game. In a blistering 4-minute spell the Devils scored 3 times. Joey Martin added the second before a bizarre 3rd. This was an own goal, something rarely occurring in ice hockey. The goal was awarded to the Devils captain as unassisted as he was the last Devils player to touch the puck. The Nottingham defender under pressure from Crowder attempted to play the puck round the boards but as he was falling shot it at his own goals and the puck found its way past the netminder.
After this weird incident the Panthers probably thought this wouldn’t be their night and on 38 minutes Crowder made it 4-0 to the home side. Nottingham pulled one straight back to finish the second period 4-1 down and give them a little hope of a comeback.
Into the 3rd period and Morissette restored the 4-goal advantage with less than 7 minutes of the match remaining. Within 20 seconds Batch had stretched the lead even further to 6-1. Some penalties for the Devils followed and the Panthers managed a consolation powerplay goal.
The game ended with a 6-2 victory but the question most Devils fans are asking is how can we be so erratic in our performances. I still believe that other sides in the league see the Devils as easy to rough up. The Devils have no real enforcer who can menace the opposition and offer a threat if players decide to get aggressive.
As mentioned earlier Mark Richardson is in his testimonial year and on Tuesday night he was honoured as over 1200 fans turned out to thank the Defenceman for his service to the club. Richardson is incredibly now in his 11th season in a Devils jersey.
Many former Devils favourites returned to Cardiff to participate in this game and at the end of the game Mark made a speech in which he thanked the Devils fans for coming out to support him. Hopefully the number 17 jersey will have Richardson’s name on the back for many more seasons to come.
Meanwhile in the NIHL, Cardiff Fire 1 had a well-deserved weekend break from the action. This should benefit the team with players nursing injuries given some time to recuperate.
Cardiff Fire 2 played just their second game of the season and ran out comfortable winners to remain unbeaten. They are looking for a third league title in a row.
Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th October
The Devils kept their Challenge cup defence alive with a great 7-2 victory in front of their home supporters. The Devils needed this victory to ensure they qualified for the quarter final stages of the competition which they won back in March when they defeated their bitter rivals the Sheffield Steelers. The Devils form so far in this competition has been erratic at best, but this performance will have instilled the confidence they need to believe they can keep hold of the trophy for another year.
It was the Coventry Blaze that opened the scoring on the night with Jordan Pietrus breaking in on Ben Bowns and lifting the puck over him. Coventry held this lead for most of the first period, but in form Devils forward Joey Martin got a tip on a Bryce Reddick shot to tie the game up with just over 2 minutes left in the period.
The second period proved to be the key one in the game with 6 goals and lots of action. Paul Crowder scored a power play goal on 26:53 to put the home side in the driving seat, but the Blaze bounced straight back with an equalising goal just 2 minutes later from David Clements.
The moment that decided the way this game went occurred just after the half hour when Blaze forward Brett Robinson got called for a check to the head on Devils player/coach Andrew Lord. He received a 5 minutes major penalty plus game misconduct penalty for his actions. In the inevitable aftermath Mark Louis picked up a 2-minute minor penalty for roughing. The Devils killed off their own penalty and in the remaining three minutes of the Robinson penalty the Devils killed the game. They scored 3 goals in less than 2 minutes, Hotham, Fournier and Captain fantastic Jake Morissette providing the goals. This put Cardiff 5-2 up and the Blaze decided to swap their Net minders, with Kevin Nastiuk pulled and Brython Preece replacing him for the rest of the game. The change did little to alter the course of this match as the devils scored again before the end of the period with Joey Martin scoring his second of the game to put the icing on the cake.
Going in to the third with a 6-2 advantage the Devils were in a position of ascendancy and were never about to let this one slip. They scored right at the beginning of the 3rd period through Layne Ulmer and then just played the remainder of the match out knowing they had done the job needed to carry them into the quarters.
Buoyed by an excellent performance on Saturday, the Devils faced a lengthy road trip to Fife, where they would be hoping to improve their stuttering league form and start to get some well needed points on the board. With several of the big guns in the league now hitting form and gaining 4-point weekends, it was imperative that Cardiff brought home the points to keep their league title hopes alive. This may sound a little drastic so early in the season but last year the Devils hit the top of the league early and just maintained their form throughout not allowing anyone to catch them. This year, partly down to European commitments, the Devils find themselves with games in hand and having to chase down early leaders Manchester Storm.
The Devils got off to the best possible start with Gleason Fournier giving them the lead after just over 2 minutes played. The Fife Flyers bounced back with Finucci and Schaber scoring before the end of the first period to take a one goal advantage into the break.
Almost immediately after the puck dropped to start the second, the Devils tied the game, Joey Martin providing the goal. The Flyers weren’t going to give this up and were back in the lead 2 minutes later with Gauthier getting a touch on a loose puck. Paul Crowder then scored a powerplay goal to make it 3-3 and that’s how it ended after 40 minutes of play.
It was the Devils power play that was successful again in the 3rd period and gave the travelling side the lead, Layne Ulmer benefitting from some good work from Matt Pope. With the score at 4-3 the Flyers pulled their Net Minder in the dying minutes and this allowed Paul Crowder to score the empty netter. This 5-3 away victory is all the more impressive after Fife were 2-1 victors over the Sheffield Steelers the night before.
It is the Dirty Dirty Steelers that visit the IAW for the first time this season on Saturday 4th November in a game that is sure to be a sell out. Last years match ups were some of the most competitive games of the year with Steelers coach throwing the hockey sticks in frustration during one encounter. Zach Fitzgerald the Sheffield enforcer seemed reluctant to tangle with then Devils enforcer Pat “Bordy” Bordeleau but with Bordy not retained, it will be interesting to see what effect Fitzy has on Saturday night. One thing is for sure you can expect fireworks.
Both Cardiff Fire teams were in action over the weekend with Fire 1 having a double header with Basingstoke Bison and Fire 2 playing only their 3rd game of the season away to Invicta Mustangs.
Fire 1 faced The Bison away on Saturday and went down 5-1 with David Christian providing the only goal for the Fire. Meanwhile Fire 2 were away to Invicta Mustangs. The Mustangs are one place ahead of Fire 2 having played 5 more games. In a tight game the Mustangs came out with the win 3-2. Rhys James Harding scored both Cardiff’s goals.
On Sunday night it was a difficult night for Fire 1 to take. After so many signs of improvement over the last few weeks the Fire went down 12-2. Michael Stratford and Jordan Powell scored for the Fire. On Sunday night penalty minutes certainly counted against the fire and they also conceded a couple of shorthanded goals.
Cardiff Fire will go again and will be hunting for victory against Bracknell away on Saturday 4th November and home at IAW on Bonfire night against Streatham. Get down there and cheer the guys on.
If you haven’t already had a look our first Cardiff Fire player interview is available here. Thanks to Elis Sheppard for answering our questions.