Ben Blood has made a major impact on the blue line for Cardiff Devils.
The big American defenceman is part of a six-man unit who protect Devils goalie Ben Bowns in domestic and European hockey.
He will be a key player when Devils play back-to-back home League fixtures this weekend, against Sheffield Steelers on Saturday and Fife the following evening.
“Ben is a top player with phenomenal stick detail who breaks up so many opposition plays,” says head coach Andrew Lord.
A flashback to Ben Blood’s college days
“He is solid defensively, excellent on the penalty kill, has a good first pass and moves the puck quickly.
“Ben is highly effective when he joins in on offence and has a good shot.
“He’s also a fun guy, social media Guru and has good energy for us. It’s a tough transition coming from the league he was in (Finland) where the style of play is different and there are not as many imports.
“Ben is a huge component of our team.”
The 6ft 4ins Blood, a tough, physical player from Plymouth in Minnesota, wears number 77 and combines life as a full-time ice hockey player with studies for a masters business degree at Cardiff Metropolitan University.
Devils are still searching for one more signing – a high-end blueliner – and are watching National Hockey League and American League pre-season camps carefully, but they are staying patient.
Lord will only sign a player who will enhance a team who have produced outstanding hockey in the Champions League, Elite League and Challenge Cup. This is the time of the year when Devils signed Tyson Strachan a year ago and they will monitor players released from training camps.
Versatile Josh Batch, a big-hitting British player, has been a major success since filling the gap on D, joining Blood, Mark Richardson, Gleason Fournier, Bryce Reddick and Mark Louis.
Devils have won 11 of their 12 domestic fixtures this season, but they face dangerous opponents when Sheffield Steelers come to ice Arena Wales this Saturday (7pm).
Steelers are bottom of the table after losing eight of their League matches including a 3-1 defeat against Fife at home this week, but they are undoubtedly a far better team than their position suggests.
Flyers’ netminder Shane Owen made 30 saves to spoil the home debut of new Steelers head coach Tom Barrasso, a former NHL goalie.
Justin Buzzeo fired Sheffield ahead after 19 minutes, while Evan Bloodoff (35 mins) and Brett Bulmer, who converted on the powerplay, scored to give Fife the lead.
Sheffield pushed hard for an equaliser, but were unable to find a way past Owen and Barrasso pulled netminder Jackson Whistle, who made 23 saves on the night, in favour of the extra attacker.
The gamble failed to pay off and former Devils forward Paul Crowder scored into the empty net 26 seconds from the end to secure a 3-1 victory for the Flyers.
Tickets are on sale for Devils’ back-to-back home fixtures this weekend. They play Sheffield on Saturday (7pm) and Fife the next evening (6pm).
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ELITE ICE HOCKEY LEAGUE 2018/19
|Milton Keynes Lightning||8||3||5||0||6||.375||17||31||149||1-0|
CHALLENGE CUP GROUP A
CHALLENGE CUP GROUP B
FIFE ELIMINATED Remaining teams re-seeded with v. Fife fixtures removed
CHALLENGE CUP GROUP C
|Milton Keynes Lightning||4||1||3||0||2||.250||11||24||40||0-3|