Andrew Lord admits his personal Champions Hockey League experience has challenged his coaching skills to their limits.
Cardiff Devils player-coach Lord has already experienced the highs and lows of European hockey and there are still two group fixtures, home and away against Vaxjo Lakers, to negotiate.
“To say this tournament has been a challenge of my skills as a coach is an understatement,” says Lord. “It’s been everything I’ve wanted and then some.”
Cardiff crashed 10-1 against HC Davos in Switzerland, while they were beaten 5-2 and 7-3 by Czech champions Bili Tygri Liberec.
But they bounced back in magnificent style with a 4-3 overtime win against Davos at Ice Arena Wales.
“There’s so much information out there and these teams play a lot differently compared to the style in our league, plus it’s called differently (by officials) too, which is an adjustment,” says player-coach Lord.
“The speed of the game is incredible from the teams we’ve faced, but it’s a huge learning curve that’s been a lot of fun. I feel, though, that we’ve been getting the benefits of that.
“It’s also a huge testament to the league with our result and what Nottingham have done so far. It just shows how far this league has come in the last couple of years.
“With that I hope the message is being sent out about the Elite League that it’s a legitimate league that’s getting better every year.”
Panthers are top of their group having won three of their four group fixtures, beating Czech team Mountfield 4-3 and 4-2 plus SC Bern 3-2.
They were beaten 5-2 by Bern in Switzerland, while they still have home and away fixtures against Finnish club TPS Turku to play.
The next CHL challenges for Lord’s Devils are at home against Vaxjo on Tuesday, October 3 and away in Sweden on Wednesday, October 11.
Cardiff are currently focused on this weekend’s domestic Challenge Cup fixtures against MK Lightning (home) and Guildford Flames (away). They go into those matches on a high after beating Davos.
Drew Paris’ strike in the extra period gave the Elite League champions their first ever win in the European competition over a team who were semi-finalists two seasons ago.
“I felt tons of joy when Drew scored that winner as well as some relief in there, but it was such a back and forth game and it felt great to get it over the line,” he said.
“Despite the scorelines in the three previous games, we had some excellent minutes, but just couldn’t put it together for the 60 minutes.
“This result has to be at the top in terms of what we’ve achieved and I think it could be possibly the biggest in our organisation’s history.
“We came up against a team that hosts the Spengler Cup every year with a history of winning and a coach that’s been there for 25-plus years.
“It was a great feeling and now we get to shift our focus back to the league and Challenge Cup and I think the fans are excited for that too. I think it could be a great season ahead.”
Cardiff’s first Elite League fixture of 2017-18 is at Sheffield Steelers on Saturday, September 16 before Nottingham Panthers are in Cardiff Bay on the Sunday (6pm).
Ticket information for all Devils’ home matches is available online via the Cardiff Devils official website or by phoning 0800 0842 666. Tickets can also be purchased in person from the main reception at Ice Arena Wales.