It has been a strange close season for the Cardiff Fire as at first, they were planning for a second season competing in both the NIHL 1 and NIHL 2 divisions, but at the 11th hour some difficulties occurred and the tough decision was made to revert back to just the one team competing in NIHL 2. This means the team roster combines some of the players who had a tough time competing in division 1 last year and some of those who were in Fire 2 last year. A number of Fire 1 players have moved on, most notably Jordan Lawday, who was outstanding last season in difficult circumstances and also Callum Buglass.
On Sunday night the Cardiff Fire team welcomed Bracknell Hornets to Ice Arena Wales. The Fire was in buoyant mood fresh from a win on the road against Invicta Mustangs. This all the more special as they were short benched.
It is fair to say that the contest did not start well for the Fire as they found themselves 1-0 down after only 15 seconds. The goal was all too easy and the man at the back door was there to tap it in. Fire bounced back almost immediately with the player of the weekend Jackson Price also finding space at the back door for a tap-in with assists from Tamas Elias and Sam Bryant. Jackson’s goal came on the power play after a delay of game call against Bracknell.
Bracknell retook the lead after 4:10 with another simple tap-in at the back door and they increased the lead just 8 seconds later with another simple finish. It is fair to say that the Fire ‘D’ was not giving netminder Whiting much protection. At 3-1 it looked a little worrying as Bracknell seemed to always be able to find a spare man and were moving the puck around very nicely. Although the Fire had been outplayed in the first 5 minutes, as is always the case with this Fire team, their team spirit is second to none and they showed tenacity to force another powerplay and after a scramble in front of the Bracknell net it was Price who again poked home the puck with Elias and Bryant again getting assists.
Now back in the game Fire were looking for parity before the end of the period and they got it on 9 minutes 20 when Jordan Powell was fed in front of the net by Alan Armour and he put the chance away. The other assist on the goal going to young Elis Sheppard who was playing as a forward, not in his normal D role. Again Bracknell seemed to be able to step into another gear and number 37 for Bracknell, Hughes was given time to turn in front of goal and flick the puck past Whiting in the pipes. Bracknell now led 4-3. This game was really turning into something special and was starting to get a little tasty with tempers beginning to flare and I was just waiting for the touch paper to be lit.
It had to be Ross Wilkinson to really get this game going and after 15:47 he made a huge hit in centre ice leaving his opponent flat out, he immediately dropped the gloves anticipating the retribution from Bracknell teammates. He wasn’t left waiting for long and a little scrap ensued which Wilkinson won. The fallout from this was that the Fire number 55 took 2+2 for roughing with Hornets number 14 receiving the same and Wilkinson also received 2 for Checking to the head and a 10-minute misconduct penalty. This seemed to inspire the Fire team and their work rate until the end of the period cannot be faulted. The period ended with a narrow 4-3 deficit.
So if period 1 wasn’t action-packed enough let’s get on to period 2. It started great for the Fire with Price again levelling the contest with assists from Joe Morris and young Bryant, who was having a great night himself. It seemed this game was destined to get away from the Fire as every time they seemed to get back into it Bracknell went up the other end and took the lead again. Just 17 seconds after Price had scored it was back to a one-goal lead for the Hornets. Then it got worse and it became a two-goal game again just a minute later.
As I said before you should never write off this Cardiff Fire team and they will battle for each other all night, such is the team spirit that has been instilled in this team over the time they have been together. Jordan Powell scored again to make it 6-5 with a powerplay goal and then it went to 7-5 with a powerplay goal from the Hornets. Jackson Price was having quite a night as he scored his 4th goal of the night to make it 7-6 and that is how the second period ended with the game still very much up for grabs.
The Fire team really needed to make a good start to the third period but unfortunately for them, Bracknell started the period very quickly, scoring 2 goals in the first 5 minutes to make it a three-goal game for the first time on the night. I myself started to doubt if there was any way back from this, as although the Fire had produced a very gutsy performance, they had clawed back from 2 goals twice but never in the game had they been 3 goals back. In fact, I have to admit that just after the 50-minute mark in the game I started to move closer to the exit of the Arena in anticipation of the next goal going to the Hornets and the game being effectively over. Then Phil “Juandingo” Manny brought hope with a goal on 54:40 and when Tamas Elias scored at 57:21 the anticipation of all the Fire fans was apparent. Chants of “Let’s go Fire” rang out and the fans including myself began to believe that this was indeed going to go to overtime. With just 18 seconds on the clock, you guessed it, with his 5th goal of the night Jackson Price poked the puck home to take this game into overtime..
I was by now glued to my seat as with game going into overtime I felt the 3 on 3 format suited the Fire more with the skating speed of Bryant, Elias, Price, Powell, Sheppard etc. And so it happened, after being unable to take a lead all night the smash and grab were completed 2 minutes and 53 seconds into sudden death overtime. Both sides had a couple of chances before Tamas Elias finished this amazing night off.
I have been following Cardiff fire for a couple of years now and have interviewed a number of their players but this performance will go down in my memory as one of the best I have seen, it had everything. Goals galore, fights, a last minute game levelling goal and a winner in sudden death overtime for your Cardiff Fire……
If you have never been down please go down and support them, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Picture Credit: James Assinder. Man of the night Jackson Price 5 goals, 1 assist and 10 minutes in penalties! ..What a night!!!