The Cardiff Fire are still searching for their first points of the season after another defeat to the London Raiders this weekend.
Cardiff, who moved up two divisions into effectively what is the old EPIHL but now called the NIHL, the second tier of British hockey, has had the toughest of tasks all season long, and after failing to pick up a point in all 18 of their games in the 2017 part of the season, any hopes of a positive start to 2018 were squashed when the Raiders came to Ice Arena Wales this weekend.
In two previous meetings between the sides, the Raiders had outscored the Fire 17 – 5, with an 11 – 4 win in the Raiders favour in October, before a 6 – 1 side for the London side in December.
Cardiff was the first on the board as defence Elis Shepard fired a bomb from the point that looked to have taken a slight deflection on its way to the net, beating Raiders goaltender Michael Gray high for the opening goal.
A little over five minutes later the Raiders had drawn it back level. 20-year old forward Olegs Lascenko forechecked hard off a faceoff and finished off by wrapping the puck past Fire goalie Jordan Lawday to bring the score back level.
Seconds later and the Raiders were celebrating again. After picking the puck up in their own zone, a quick rush up ice found the puck on the stick of captain Tom Davis, who put a slow effort on net looking for the stick of Lascenko who couldn’t get his stick to it to deflect it home, but the puck trickled past Lawday for a goal for the Captain.
Coming out for the second period, the Raiders were quick to get back on the scoresheet, this time it was JJ Pitchley scoring his 100th point in a Raiders jersey.
London was the first to respond from a faceoff outside the Fire zone as Brandon Ayliffe quickly jumped on the loose puck, before finding a wide open Pitchley who fired a quick shot past Lawday, who could do no more than watching the puck rocket past him for a 3 – 1 London lead.
Much like in the first period, London took little time to add another. With some pressure deep in the Fire zone, Matthew Turner began to skate behind the net, and as Lawday went to move from post to post, Turner passed it back out the other side to Lascenko who buried his shot for a 4 – 1 lead and his second goal of the night.
A little over two minutes later and it was 5 – 1 as Juraj Huska registered his first of the night, sneaking one short side on Lawday, before adding his second in the final minute of the second period.
With a 6 – 1 lead going into the final period, London swapped goalie Michael Gray, who’s stopped all but one of the 10 shots he’d faced through 40 minutes of play, for his young back up Zach Grandy-Smith who blanked the Fire in his 20 minutes of action, with just a lone goal coming from captain Tom Davis for his second of the goal, and to close out the game with a convincing 7 – 1 Raiders victory, their fifth straight in the league.
Cardiff remaining rooted to be bottom of the table where it’s likely they’ll remain for the rest of the season, but coach Mark Cuddihy has previously said this is a long process for the club, and both Cuddihy and assistant coach and former Cardiff Devil Mark Smith both believe the wins can come this year.
The Fire had a day off on Sunday, while the Raiders returned home for a tough test against the Peterborough Phantoms, which ended in a 5 – 2 win for the Phantoms, and after the weekend the Raiders sit in fifth place in the 10 team league.
Cardiff is back in action on home ice on Saturday 13th January as they take on the seventh place Milton Keynes Thunder.
It’ll be the third meeting between the Fire and Thunder this season, with Milton Keynes skating away with a 6 – 0 victory in their first trip to Cardiff back in September, and a much closer 4 – 2 win over the Fire when Cardiff visited them on the road back in November.
Feature Picture Credit: http://www.cardiff-fire.com