Cardiff Devils 4, Manchester Storm 0
Captain Jake Morissette and his Devils are within touching distance of winning the Elite League title, but they dare not relax just yet.
Leaders Devils earned a 15th successive home League win when they defeated Manchester Storm in front of a sell-out attendance at the Viola Arena.
That sensational run of form has seen Devils scored 68 goals and concede 30, while goaltender Ben Bowns has kept four consecutive shutouts at home.
Man of the match Bowns closed down Storm – and that took his tally of shutouts during five years playing for Devils to a record-breaking 29.
Welshman Stevie Lyle led the way with 28 for many seasons, but now Bowns has overtaken the Cardiff-born goalie.
‘Bownsy’ made 27 saves against Storm and led Devils to a crucial victory.
They are, potentially, one win away from being crowned champions for a third successive season.
Devils need a win against Dundee Stars in Scotland on Sunday and a Belfast Giants defeat at home against Sheffield Steelers.
No club has ever won three titles in a row, but Devils gave given themselves a golden opportunity.
They Devils played a near perfect game, one of their best if not THE best, 60-minute performances of the season.
Now they take on a Dundee team who must win to keep their play-off hopes alive and head coach Andrew Lord says: “We’re going to be up against it.
“Dundee are battling for their lives for a playoff play. They are a fast team that can be dangerous.
“We have to be focussed if we are to come out of their building with two points.”
Cardiff outshot Storm 13-5 during the opening period, but the game remained scoreless at the Viola Arena last night.
An early powerplay in the middle period saw the Devils break the deadlock.
Charles Linglet’s shot was saved by Matt Ginn, but Stephen Dixon and Layne Ulmer both pounced on the rebound and eventually Ulmer hammered the puck past Ginn to put the Devils up 1-0 at 22-18.
Gleason Fournier scored with a wrist shot through traffic from just inside the blueline after 25-07 to double the Devils lead.
Two minutes later Storm’s Linden Springer and Devils defenceman Mark Louis dropped the gloves with Louis getting the nod on this one to ignite the home crowd.
Devils held their 2-0 lead into the third period and then, at 46-40, Fournier found Linglet at the side of the net and he netted with a wraparound goal to make it 3-0.
Dixon who blasted a slapshot past Ginn at 46-30 to complete the scoreline.
It is a result which ensured Cardiff made full use of Belfast’s slip-up in Manchester on Friday.
Scorers, Devils: Layne Ulmer 1+0, Gleason Fournier 1+1, Charles Linglet 1+2, Stephen Dixon 1+1, Joey Martin 0+2, Matt Pope 0+1.
Period scores (Devils first): 0-0, 2-0 (2-0), 2-0 (4-0).
Shots on goal: Devils (on Ginn) 11+13+14=38, Storm (on Bowns) 5+10+12=27.
Penalties in minutes: Devils 0+5+4=9; Storm 4+7+2=13.
Special teams: Devils PK 2/2, PP 1/4; Storm PP 3/4, PP 0/2.
Men of the match: Devils, Ben Bowns; Storm, Harrison Ruopp.
Referees: Tom Pering and Dean Smith.
Sunday Elite League fixtures
In what could be their final home game of the season, Dundee host Cardiff.
Stars have no option but to win and then hope other results go their way if they are to make the play-offs.
“It is not finished yet,” said Stars player-coach Omar Pacha. “But we are going to have a tough test against Cardiff.
“We need to pick ourselves up and there is a big opportunity on Sunday. This team has proved they can beat anybody and it is up to us as a team to make things happen.”
Belfast look to avenge their recent defeat in Sheffield when they welcome the Steelers to the SSE Arena.
Belfast have been exceptional at home this season so far, winning 24 of their 27 games up to this point. They’ve also won both games against the Steelers at home so far this season.
“I would like us to get back to playing the dominant hockey that we can, because we have certainly had some passengers lately,” said head coach Adam Keefe.
“We need everybody playing well and to get rolling going into the playoffs. If we’re not ready now, we need to start because it won’t be easy in those games.”
Sheffield are in a fight for fifth in the table, but have played at least a game more than the other sides around them.
6pm Guildford Flames vs. Coventry Blaze (Tickets)
Guildford play their third game in as many days as they return to home ice and face Coventry.
Flames slipped a place after a shootout defeat in Fife and, while they are now guaranteed of play-off hockey, Flames still have the chance to finish higher than they currently are.
Fife and Nottingham meet in Sunday’s late game as both sides try to secure the highest seeding they can going into the play-offs.
Nottingham need two points to confirm finishing third in the table and an overtime or shootout win.
ELITE ICE HOCKEY LEAGUE 2018/19
|Milton Keynes Lightning||57||15||38||4||34||.298||143||228||954||0-1|
Remaining Elite League fixtures during the regular season:
Fife Flyers v Guildford Flames 7.15pm
Sunday, March 24
Belfast Giants v Sheffield Steelers 4pm
Dundee Stars v Cardiff Devils 5pm
Guildford Flames v Coventry Blaze 6pm
Fife Flyers v Nottingham Panthers 6.30pm
Wednesday, March 27
Coventry Blaze v Belfast Giants 7.30pm
Friday March 29
Belfast Giants v Fife Flyers 7pm
Milton Keynes Lightning v Manchester Storm 7.30pm
Saturday, March 30
Belfast Giants v Dundee Stars 7pm
Cardiff Devils v Milton Keynes Lightning 7pm
Glasgow Clan v Fife Flyers 7pm
Manchester Storm v Coventry Blaze 7pm
Nottingham Panthers v Guildford Flames 7pm
Sunday, March 31
Coventry Blaze v Cardiff Devils 5.15pm
Milton Keynes Lightning v Sheffield Steelers 5.15pm
Guildford Flames v Dundee Stars 6pm
Fife Flyers v Glasgow Clan 6.30pm