Date: Saturday 15th September, 2018
Venue: Ice Arena Wales
by Ian Fitzell
THE CARDIFF Devils began their defence of their Predictorbet Elite League title with a hard fought 3-2 win over a physical Nottingham Panthers side.
Missing the influential pair of Mark Richardson and Justin Faryna, it was a chance for the Devils’ new players like defenceman Benny Blood, to finally taste the domestic competition after the first rounds of the Champions Hockey League.
Craig Moore switched to defence to cover for Richardson and proved an able deputy, with coach Andrew Lord rotating the bench well to replace Faryna.
The first period was evenly matched end to end hockey, with the Panthers breaking the deadlock with just over a minute left in period when Alex Gupil beat Cardiff goalie Ben Bowns.
The Panthers extended their lead with a power play goal from Tyler Biggs when a breakaway from the short-handed Devils was broken down in the Panthers zone. The Devils continued to press, with the impressive ex-NHL and KHL goalie Mike Garnett in the Nottingham net protecting the Panthers lead with a string of impressive stops.
The Devils needed to get on the score sheet early in the third to stay in the game and winger Matt Pope scored the first of three straight unanswered goals soon after the start of the final period.
The physically dominant Panthers side tried to make use of this advantage straight after Popes goal to close out the game, but they instead ran into penalty trouble. While Tommy Hughes sat for a boarding major on Sean Bentivoglio, Stephen Dixon pounced to level the game with a powerplay goal.
The influence of man of the match Benny Blood was clear with not only his skating and hockey skills, but also his ability to agitate and draw penalties which saw more time in the box for Panthers, who started to show signs of frustration.
The game winning goal for the Devils came from the league MVP Joey Martin, who beat Garnett following some nice interplay between line mates Pope and Bentivoglio with just over 12 minutes still on the clock.
Panthers coach Rich Chernomaz pulled Garnett in the dying seconds, but the Devils failed to capitalise on the empty net, despite a number of attempts, the best falling for Mark Louis.
The Devils looked impressive and composed and evenly matched the much larger Panthers team, who are many pundits favourites for this years title. Charlie Linglet, Mark Louis and Benny Blood particularly stood out for Lords’ team, with Linglet showing why he spent so many years in the KHL with his silky skills and vision.
New coach Doug McKay brings his Milton Keynes Lightning to Cardiff on Sunday (16) where the Devils begin their quest to regain the Challenge Cup. The home side will celebrate the successes of last season with a raising ceremony for the Elite League Championship and Playoff Championship banners before the start of the game.
Joey Martin 1+1, Matt Pope 1+1, Stephen Dixon 1+0, Sean Bentivoglio 0+1, Mike Hedden 0+1, Craig Moore 0+1, Bryce Reddick 0+1
PIM – 6
SOG – 33
Alex Guptil 1+0, Tyler Biggs 1+0, Mark Hurtubise 0+1, Justin Kovacs 0+1, Jaynen Rissling 0+1,
PIM – 18
SOG – 28