Since my last reports back in November, a lot has happened in the Elite league with the Devils finally starting to close the gap at the top of the table. My last match report was, unfortunately, to describe how the Devils had failed to make it a “magnificent 7” victories in a row. This happened to be the start of a 3 game losing streak. After a narrow defeat by the Dundee Stars, the Devils then went on to lose at home to Fife and away to Nottingham. The Panthers from Nottingham have been flying high this season with great performances in the Champions League in Europe and this form is being carried into the Elite League and Challenge Cup.
The Panthers are the team in the driving seat in the Elite League at the moment, they currently sit one place behind our very own Cardiff Devils in third place but on the same points and with a game in hand. The current league leaders are in somewhat a false position, the Belfast Giants are currently top of the pile but have played 3 more games than the Devils and 4 more than the Panthers, and are only two points clear.
But it’s the way the Devils have gone from a tenth place only a few weeks ago to be back challenging at the top of the league, which is most impressive. In our recent interview with Devils captain Jake Morissette, he was positive that all the new players would come good and we would be challenging for trophies on all fronts come the end of the season. True to his word since those three defeats in November, the Devils have won 6 of their last 7 games and crucially defeated early pace-setters the Manchester Storm and most recently the in-form Nottingham Panthers. Over the last two weekends, the Devils have picked up back to back 4 pointers. These 4 point weekends were few and far between early on in the season and are what have propelled the Devils back up the table.
In the last few weeks, despite key players like Mark Louis, Joey Haddad, Craig Moore and most recently Justin Faryna and Josh Batch, having to be sidelined with injuries, the Devils have shown the team spirit and character to push through and record crucial victories. New signings Paul Crowder, Matt Pope and Justin Faryna have been on fire for the last few weeks and with new D-men Tyson Strachan and Bryce Reddick now seemingly getting to grips with the Elite League, all are starting to look rosy for the Cardiff team.
So what can we expect for the rest of the season?
I believe that with the Devils new found form and belief, they can indeed be challenging on all fronts towards the tail end of the season. In the league, teams like the Storm and the Steelers have been struggling of late but the Panthers continue to pick up victories and look very strong favourites at this point.
Although the Giants are sitting pretty at the top of the league, I believe that both the Devils and the Panthers are equipped to overhaul their lead in the coming months.
In the Challenge Cup, next up for the Devils are the Guildford Flames, firstly away on Wednesday 20th December and then the return leg at IAW on Wednesday 10th January. The Flames currently lead the Devils this season with 2 victories to 1 so far, with both the Flames victories coming in the group stages of the Challenge Cup. It will be two tough games but I would like to think that the Devils can come out victorious over two legs. If they manage to overcome the test of the Flames, then they would be in the semi-finals and anything could then happen…
I was quite critical of the new Devils squad at the start of the season and in particular the lack of an out and out enforcer such as Bordeleau from last season, but the new players have proved me wrong and instead of one big threat all the players seem happy to step up and look after each other out there.
I am now looking forward to the rest of the season with a great deal of optimism. With injured players to come back into contention, this can only push the import players to perform even better or face the possibility of being the scratch player sat watching their colleagues.
Next up for the Devils is a home doubleheader, firstly we welcome the Sheffield Steelers to IAW on Saturday with a 7pm faceoff and then on Sunday at 6pm the Braehead Clan are the visitors.