Sean Bentivoglio’s overtime goal earned Cardiff Devils victory in Altrincham.
Head coach Andrew Lord and his team showed the character and spirit to grind out the win they needed.
Lord was the healthy scratch for Devils with Joey Haddad returning to the line-up, while Mark Louis and Craig Moore were ruled out by injuries.
Bentivoglio’s strike gave Devils a 4-3 win and they now play Dundee Stars at Ice Arena Wales this evening (Sunday, 6pm).
It was a big win for the reigning champions, who had to battle hard to clinch the two points against a gritty Go Goodwins Manchester Storm.
Dane Byers made the breakthrough for Manchester halfway through the first period (9-51), but Cardiff hit back with Gleason Fournier scoring twice on powerplays, after 16-39 and then with seconds to go in the opening period.
The middle period was filled with penalties and Storm had four chances with the man-advantage, but the Devils penalty-killing unit was up to task.
At the other end, the Devils couldn’t score with their own powerplay chances as Storm netminder Mike Clemente kept the Devils at bay.
Devils led 2-1 going into the third period, but Paul Swindlehurst tied the game and for the next 12 minutes the netminders had to shine at both ends of the ice. Clemente and Bowns met the challenge head on, facing 14 and 15 shots respectively.
Devils took a 3-2 lead at 57-37 after piling on the pressure for nearly a minute resulting in Andrew Hotham shooting from just inside the blueline through a pile of bodies past Clemente.
But the scoring wasn’t over yet. With their netminder pulled for an extra attacker Byers had the final touch on a scrambling puck and put it past Bowns with 18 seconds left.
The game went into 3v3 overtime and a high quality transition by Devils gave Andrew Hotham the chance to find Joey Martin and he produced a behind the back pass to Bentivoglio. He tucked the puck past Clemente to give the Devils the win.
Joey Martin, Matt Pope and Patrick Asselin were the first line out followed by Layne Ulmer, Bentivoglio and Justin Faryna.
Asselin then joined Matthew Myers and Josh Batch before Jake Morissette, Haddad and Paul Crowder took to the ice.
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Scorers, Storm: Dane Byers 2+0, Paul Swindlehurst 1+0, Luke Moffatt 0+2, Gerard Hanson 0+2, Scott Pitt 0+1, Matt Beca 0+1.
Devils: Gleason Fournier 2+0, Andrew Hotham 1+1, Sean Bentivoglio 1+0, Matt Pope 0+2, Joey Martin 0+2, Layne Ulmer 0+1, Mark Richardson 0+1.
Period scores (Storm first): 1-2; 0-0 (1-2); 2-1 (3-3); 0-1 (3-4).
Shots on goal: Storm (on Bowns) 8+8+15+1=32; Devils (on Clemente) 10+10+14+7=41.
Powerplays: Storm 0/6; Devils 2/5.
Penalties in minutes: Storm 6+8+2+0=16; Devils 14+8+4=26.
Referee: Tom Pering