Mixed Fortunes For The Devils. The Fire Still Searching For Their First Win

After back to back shutout wins over Dundee and Braehead, the Devils have endured a mixed bag of results over the last week.  Taking their devastating form into the game against Sweden’s Vaxjo Lakers on Tuesday 3rd October the Devils chalked up one of their best victories in their 30-year history.

Such was the performance by the Devils the press in Sweden actually reported the loss by the Lakers as “an embarrassment”.  Ben Bowns, fresh from his Elite league player of the week award, put in another impressive effort in leading the Devils defensive effort.  A powerplay goal by the captain, Jake Morrisette midway through the first period gave the Devils the lead. They quickly made it 2-0 just 4 minutes into the second period when Sean Bentivoglio netted and they scored again before the end of the period with a first Devils goal from Craig Moore.  Vaxjo finally got a breakthrough on the powerplay whilst Joey Haddad sat in the penalty box. Haddad then atoned for his error and an empty-netter from testimonial man Mark Richardson sealed a historic victory.

Buoyed by this victory, the Devils then faced the test of the visiting Belfast Giants on Saturday 7th October. Playing in front of a sell-out crowd at IAW the Devils flew out of the blocks and took a commanding 2-0 lead. The first goal took just 40 seconds to come and the lead was doubled with only 8 minutes gone. The goals came from Patrick Asselin and Joey Martin. The short benched Giants fought back and managed to halve the deficit before the first intermission. The Devils restored their 2-goal lead only 2 minutes into the second period, but whether the Devils concentration slipped or tiredness from the Champions League game kicked in, who knows? But the Giants took control and the game was all square going into the final period.

The scores remained tied until late on in an aggressive third period. Several scuffles and skirmishes broke out and even when the Devils had a five on three they were unable to capitalise. The Giants scored two late goals to take all the points back to Belfast. This victory for The Giants was massive while they were short benched and for the Devils, they will hope they don’t regret this loss at the end of the season.  The Devils are back in Champions League action on Wednesday 11th October in Sweden against Vaxjo Lakers and will be back at IAW on Saturday 14th against new boys Guildford Flames, and then they are away on Sunday 15th October to Coventry Blaze. Both weekend games are in the Challenge Cup.

Meanwhile, in the second tier of British Ice Hockey, the Cardiff Fire again endured a difficult weekend, but there are signs that they are getting better and that elusive first victory could be coming soon.  After facing a double header against early League leaders Peterborough Phantoms last weekend, it didn’t get much easier this weekend with fixtures away to 2nd place Swindon Wildcats on Saturday and home at IAW to 3rd placed Bracknell Bees.  The Fire improvement continued despite a 7-0 loss on Saturday. Many key players returned on the weekend and this certainly helped in the team performance.

On Sunday young netminder Jordan Lewis Lawday started for the Fire. He had a terrific game and kept the Bracknell Bees at bay until the 17th minute of the first period. The Fire had been extremely competitive and had many chances of their own but some great saves from the Bees netminder, unfortunately, left the Fire without the goal their efforts deserved.  The Fire was looking to build on their first-period play but was caught cold at the start of the second and were 2-0 down after only a minute. The first line of Sam Smith, Nicky Chinn and Michael Stratford looked dangerous with Smith, in particular, looking good in possession of the puck. This was a whole-hearted game of hockey with many scuffles throughout the game but once again the Fire seemed to be on the receiving end of some poor decisions.

The line of Bryant, Powell and David Manning were also very dangerous and everyone was left baffled when Manning was given 2 minutes for spearing. In the exchanges that then took place, this penalty was made a 25 plus match penalty with the player finding the decision a joke.  The Fire conceded early again in the third and the game remained an ill-tempered affair.  The Fire found themselves 4 down after 45 minutes and then in the 53rd minute a mass brawl took place behind the Cardiff Fire net. When the calls came from the officials, several players took minor penalties but young forward Sam Bryant got called for roughing and then also called on a game misconduct penalty for incitement. As all this was going on another fight broke out between Elis Sheppard and Josh Martin of the Bees with both players going at it even when the officials tried to intervene. Both players picked up game misconduct penalties for resisting the officials. This incident took a long, long time to sort out and calm down, but when the game restarted the Bees scored a fifth before a well-deserved consolation goal for the fire through Michael Stratford.

I think this game showed, that, to a man the Fire are progressing and will not be bullied by the more experienced teams in the league. The man of the match for the Fire was young netminder Jordan Lewis Lawday who faced a total of 54 shots.  Cardiff Fires next fixture is away on Saturday 14th October against London Raiders who are the team just above The Fire. Could this be the weekend…?  They are home again at IAW on Saturday 28th October against Basingstoke Buffalo.

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Feature Picture Credit: http://www.walesonline.co.uk

Julian Blackburn