Cardiff Devils 2, Guildford Flames 0
Goalie Ben Bowns kept a third shutout in four Elite League matches as Cardiff Devils stayed on course to win the Elite League ice hockey title.
They have seven fixtures to play in the regular season and are four points ahead of Belfast Giants.
Both teams have played 53 matches – and one of the two rivals will be crowned champions.
Bowns kept a second straight home shutout, while Layne Ulmer and Gleason Fournier, with his 22nd goal of the season, scored the goals.
In a fiercely contested match at the Viola Arena, Cardiff scored their goals in the middle period.
Canadian power forward Joey Haddad and Toms Rutkis returned to the Devils line-up, while Charles Linglet was rested as the spare import.
The next test for Devils is against Sheffield Steelers away next Saturday, while they are at home against Glasgow Clan the following evening.
Devils and Flames kept each other out in the opening 20 minutes before Cardiff took control.
Layne Ulmer opened the scoring at 27-52 – a dump into the corner allowed the pass out in front for Ulmer to slot home from close range.
With 3-09 left in the second Fournier’s shot from the blueline went through traffic to put the Devils two ahead.
Guildford had some decent possession late on, but weren’t able to find a way past Bowns, and the Devils took the 2-0 win to stay clear at the top.
Flames are back at the Viola Arena on Sunday for the Challenge Cup final against Belfast Giants (4pm).
Match stats (Devils v Flames):
Scorers, Devils: Layne Ulmer 1+0, Gleason Fournier 1+0, Jake Morissette 0+1, Joey Haddad 0+1, Sean Bentivoglio 0+1, Joey Martin 0+1.
Period scores (Devils first): 0-0; 2-0 (2-0); 0-0 (2-0)
Shots on goal: Devils (on Fullerton) 2+14+2=18, Flames (on Bowns) 6+6+7=19.
Special teams: Devils PK 3/3, PP 1/5; Flames PK 4/5, PP 0/3.
Men off the match: Devils, Matthew Myers; Flames, Travis Fullerton.
Penalties in minutes: Devils 6+0+0=12; Flames 0+8+2=10.
Referees: Dean Smith and Matt Rose.
Belfast Giants 5, Glasgow Clan 4
Adam Keefe’s Belfast kept up their chase of Cardiff at the top of the table with a hard-fought win over Glasgow.
The sides were level after 20 minutes at the SSE Arena. Jordan Smotherman’s opening goal at 5-05 was cancelled out by Scott Pitt just over two and a half minutes before the end of the first period.
Two goals in little more than five minutes at the beginning of the second put the home side 3-1 ahead. Josh Roach (22-25) and Darcy Murphy (27-37) were the scorers, although Guillaume Doucet pulled Clan back to within one at 35-19.
Blair Riley re-established Belfast’s two-goal lead (4-2) with 71 seconds left in the period.
A powerplay goal by Gerard Hanson 1-34 into the final period again had Clan back to within one of tying the game, but Giants responded again when Kyle Baun scored (48-15).
The visitors did make the final few minutes interesting after Hanson bundled a puck home from close range with 2-38 left, but after pulling net minder Joel Rumpel they weren’t able to generate that killer chance in the closing stages to force overtime.
Elite League fixtures this weekend:
Saturday, March 9: Milton Keynes Lightning v Coventry Blaze (7pm), Nottingham Panthers v Dundee Stars (7pm), Sheffield Steelers v Fife Flyers (7pm).
Sunday, March 10: Dundee Stars v Manchester Storm (5pm), Coventry Blaze v Milton Keynes Lightning (5.15pm), Fife Flyers v Sheffield Steelers (6.30pm).
Sunday, March 10: Challenge Cup final, Belfast Giants v Guildford Flames at the Viola Arena, Cardiff Bay (4pm).
Remaining 7 Elite League fixtures
Three home, four away
Saturday 16 v Sheffield Steelers (away, 7pm)
Sunday 17 v Glasgow Clan (home, 6pm)
Wednesday 20 v Glasgow Clan (away, 7.30pm)
Saturday 23 v Manchester Storm (home, 7pm)
Sunday 24 v Dundee Stars (away, 5pm)
Saturday 30 v MK Lightning (home, 7pm)
Sunday 31 v Coventry Blaze (away, 5.15pm)
7 fixtures left, five home, two away
Friday 15 v Coventry Blaze (home, 7pm)
Saturday 16 v Coventry Blaze (home, 7pm)
Friday 22 v Manchester Storm (away, 7pm)
Sunday 24 v Sheffield Steelers (home, 4pm)
Wednesday 27 v Coventry Blaze (away, 7.30pm)
Friday 29 v Fife Flyers (home, 7pm)
Saturday 30 v Dundee Stars (home, 7pm)
ELITE ICE HOCKEY LEAGUE 2018/19
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