Both Match Reports written by Julian Blackburn
Devils send rivals Steelers home pointless
The Sheffield Steelers captain Jonathan Phillips was born and brought up just a stone’s throw away from Ice Arena Wales, but he has had an illustrious career with the Sheffield side. He celebrated a testimonial year last year and has been a mainstay and captain for the GB hockey side for many years as well.
On Saturday night he brought his team to Ice Arena Wales hoping that a visit to his home town would end up as perfect and he could head back to Yorkshire after putting one over on his former team.
IAW was again sold out with the 3000 plus fans packed inside hoping for fireworks a day early.
The Devils piled on the pressure in the first shift straight after the face off. They had the Steelers pinned in their defensive zone and fired off several shots before Sean Bentivoglio managed to get a tip on an Andrew Hotham shot. The goal came just 55 seconds into the contest and settled the home fans nerves in what was seen as one of the biggest tests of the season so far.
The Steelers composed themselves and played themselves into the game and had it all tied up after 4minutes 45 seconds when Andreas Valdix scored for the visitors.
Both sides were missing key men with the Devils missing forwards Joey Haddad and Patrick Asselin and their very own testimonial man Mark Richardson who was suited up and on the bench. The Steelers were missing Colton Fretter who fell foul to a ruling from the department of player safety and were short of defensive options.
With these problems the Devils decided to play big defenceman Mark Louis as a forward. This was a perfect choice with him being such a fast and powerful skater and this frequently pitted him against the Steelers Zach Fitzgerald who seemed to be on the ice almost constantly.
The game was a great advert for Elite league hockey and was beginning to heat up. When John Armstrong got 2 minutes for cross checking, the Devils got their powerplay working and the outstanding Andrew Hotham benefitted by scoring the go-ahead goal.
Just 5 minutes later and the Devils were again on the powerplay after Matt Marquardt got called for cross checking. This time Matt Pope scored the goal that the pressure on the powerplay so deserved. The period ended 3-1.
To those looking at the scorecard the second period may have looked very dull, but it was one of the most exciting periods seen at IAW this year. The Devils D working fantastic to limit the Steelers to only 3 shots throughout the period. The game was fizzing with many expecting someone to drop the gloves. Several big hits went in and Fitzy (Zach Fitzgerald) was his normal aggressive self trying his best to cause incidents behind the play. At one point Andre Deveaux seemed to completely lose it with the match officials and can count himself lucky not to have picked up a misconduct penalty. He was not alone in his frustrations. As was the case on many occasions at IAW last year Paul “Thommo” Thompson the Steelers head coach seemed a frustrated figure on the away bench. He was constantly shouting and questioning the officials calls. The period ended with no further scores from either side and set the third period up for an exciting finale for the 3095 fans in attendance.
The third period continued in the same vein as the second with the Steelers toiling but the Devils defence well on top. Even when the Steelers went on the power play the Devils still managed to snuff them out. In the final minute of the game the Yorkshiremen rolled the dice and pulled their goalie for the extra skater. The move aimed at getting the game into overtime. The gamble worked initially with the Steelers netting with 31 seconds of the game remaining. Scott Aarsen scored the goal. This proved to be merely a consolation goal as the Devils managed to take possession from the face off and run the clock down.
This performance was the type of gutsy performance that has been so often missing this year.
Cardiff Fire so so unlucky……
The Cardiff Fire came so close to getting their first and well-deserved win on the board this weekend. They went down 8-1 away on Saturday to the Bracknell Bees. As seems to be the case regularly this season, the Fire had only 16 players to the Bees 21 and were outshot 70-20. With these shot stats young netminder Jordan Lawday did a fantastic job to only concede 8. Jackson Price scored the Fire’s only goal
The Fire put the result on Saturday night behind them and although being outnumbered in players to the same odds as the night before, the Fire produced arguably their best and most gutsy performance of the season.
The team battled so hard in defence but despite their best efforts they conceded after only 3 minutes. The Fire continued to battle hard and were justly rewarded with the goal that tied the game coming in the final minute of the first period. Michael John Stratford scoring with assists from Elis Sheppard and Kalle Allner. Allner is proving to be a great acquisition for Mark Cuddihy’s side. He is a very strong Defenceman who is great on the attack and he seems to be settling in to his new side very well.
In the second period and possibly for the first time this season the Fire got the go-ahead goal with Sam Bryant scoring with assists from Sam Smith and Stratford. You could see the excitement and joy from the Fire players as they celebrated that goal, but celebrations were short lived, and they were pegged back within 4 minutes. The team spirit that has been evident all season remained, and the Fire scored again to take the lead for a second time, this time Jordan Powell scoring and Manning grabbing an assist.
The game was on a knife edge and small margins are what normally swing games. Whether the Fire players were beginning to tire with the extra ice time their small bench were having to do or whether it was a momentary lapse of concentration, but with only 5 minutes on the contest to go the Redhawks of Streatham tied the game up again. Callum Buglass , one of the Fire players on a two-way deal with the Devils, got a soft call against him for cross checking and the goal came from the resulting powerplay. Less than 50 seconds later the Fire were dealt a devastating blow when they conceded again. I think the team and all the fans had thought this was going to be the moment when we would finally all be able to celebrate the first win.
To rub salt into the wounds as the Fire went on a late powerplay, they decided to pull goalie Jordan Lawday and when they lost possession Streatham sent the puck the length of the ice for an empty netter. The end score line of 5-3 to the away side does not tell the story and is very cruel on the Fire who deserved the victory.
In my opinion I believe if the Fire had a full bench the fatigue may have been less, and in these small margins, this narrow loss could well have been a victory.
Jordan Lawday picked up a well-deserved man of the match. At one point he faced 45 consecutive shots without conceding.
I am sure a win is coming, and I hope I can be there to cheer the guys on as and when it comes.