Dai-Sport are in Europe with Cardiff Devils. Ice hockey journalist Terry Phillips has travelled for Champions Hockey League matches in the Czech Republic and Austria. He is with the team plus more than 250 Devils fans on their European adventure.
Steve King and Brian Parker, two Cardiff Devils owners who flew in from Calgary to support their team were in fine voice at the CPP Arena in Hradec Králové.
Canadians King and Parker, who travelled to Europe along with family and friends, had the Sky Box Hospitality suite at their disposal, but chose to stand on the rink terracing among Devils fans.
They stood together halfway up the terracing singing and joining in fully with ‘Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, Devils, Devils’, ‘Let’s Go Devils’ and more.
Unfortunately, head coach Andrew Lord’s team were a little out of tune against Czech club Mountfield HK away. They created some grade A chances against a Mountfield team who were out for revenge after their 3-2 defeat against Devils at the Viola Arena, but were not clinical enough.
More than 250 Welsh ice hockey supporters were in Hradec Králové for the Champions Hockey League clash – strangely split into two groups, based either end of the arena. Aggressive-looking security men stood with their backs to the action watching Devils fans at both ends closely, but, while the evening was full of good-hearted banter, the atmosphere was excellent.
The Cardiff faithful were loud and proud with their passionate singing and chanting throughout the match.
Three drums and a trumpet led Mountfield’s backing, while their five goals were followed scarf saving and a blast of ’Sweet Caroline’ over the loudspeaker system.
Up in the Sky Box suite, high above the terracing where King, Parker and the fans were driving Devils support, Todd Kelman, Neil Francis and other club officials were watching anxiously.
King and Parker popped in during period breaks and, after the first, the conjecture was that coach Lord would be giving his players ‘a rocket’ in the locker room.
At the end of 60 minutes Mountfield had prevailed and are top of the group, one point ahead of Cardiff and two in front of Frölunda Indians.
Devils, though, remain right in the mix to qualify for the Champions Hockey League knockout stages and their next test is against Graz 99ers in Austria on Saturday.
“It wasn’t our best, definitely not,” said head coach Andrew Lord. “Mountfield played with great speed and energy, while they took time and space away from us all over. It was what we did in Cardiff.
“We were out of the gates slowly and our first 10 wasn’t good enough. We improved as the game went on, but playing teams like this we need a full 60 minutes.
“We have to start better against Graz on Saturday.”
Devils goalscorer Bryce Reddick says: “In our first two games at home we stuck to the game plan, playing physical and taking the body ever chance we got.
“But we strayed away from that against Mountfield on Thursday.
“They are, though, a great team. Graz, too, will be tough on Saturday, but we are excited about that.”
Sam Duggan shone for Devils at the CPP Arena, finishing his hits and harassing Mountfield players at every opportunity.
Overall, though, Devils are capable of improving on this display and will be fired up for their clash with 99ers.
They stayed at their hotel in Pardubice, 20 minutes from Hradec Králové, before letting the train take the strain when switching to Graz on Friday morning.
Evan Mosey, the import player ruled out for the next few months by injury, is with the team, while captain Joey Martin stayed in Wales to continue rehab on a niggling injury.
During the match against Mountfield, the home were slick, fast and clinical, putting Cardiff on their heels in the first period and opening a two goal lead.
They opened the scoring with a powerplay goal from Tomáš Vincour at 9-41 and at 13-14 doubled that lead through Lukáš Cingel.
Devils improved in the second and really should have scored, but went into the final 20 minutes still 2-0 down.
Mountfield took a high-sticking penalty in the dying seconds of that middle period to give the Devils a powerplay opportunity to open the third.
The home side killed off the initially penalty, but were straight back in the box after being called for delay of game, giving the Devils another two minutes of PP to try and pull one back.
Instead it was Mountfield who extended their lead with a shorthanded breakaway by Daniel Rákos, making it 3-0 at 42-24.
Another powerplay goal at 46-27, scored by Rudolf Červený, put the hosts up 4-0 before the Devils finally started to claw back into the game.
At 52-37 Bryce Reddick scored to make it 4-1, and then, 30 seconds later, Matias Sointu, who joined Stephen Dixon and Masi Marjamaki on the first line, chose to shoot on a 2on1.
He found the back of the net with a wrist shot to make it 4-2 with seven minutes left to play and Mountfield were stunned.
Devils opted to pull netminder Ben Bowns in favour of the extra attacker, but the move didn’t pay off and it was Māris Bičevskis who scored an empty net goal to complete the scoring.
Scorers, Mountfield: Tomáš Vincour 1+0, Lukáš Cingel 1+0, Daniel Rákos (SH) 1+0, Rudolf Červený 1+1, Māris Bičevskis 1+0, Matej Paulovič 0+1, Radek Smoleňák 0+1
Mislav Rosandić 0+1, Aleš Jergl 0+1, Oskars Cibulskis 0+1,
Devils: Bryce Reddick 1+0, Matias Sointu 1+0, Mike McNamee 0+1, Masi Marjamaki 0+1, Gleason Fournier 0+1
Period scores (Mountfield first) 2-0; 0-0 (2-0); 3-2 (5-2)
Shots: Mountfield 65, Devils 35
Shots on goal: Mountfield 37, Devils 25
Powerplays: Mountfield 5, Devils 5
Penalties in minutes: Mountfield 12, Devils 12
Penalty kill efficiency: Mountfield 100%, Devils 60%
Saves: Mountfield (Marek Mazanec) 23, Devils (Ben Bowns) 32
Save percentage: Mountfield 92%, Devils 86%
Face-off won: Mountfield 20, Devils 34
Shots blocked: Mountfield 15, Devils
First line: Sam Jardine, Bryce Reddick, Stephen Dixon, Masi Marjamaki, Matias Sointu
Second line: Mark Richardson, Gleason Fournier, Charles Linglet, Mike McNamee, Matthew Pope
Third line: Mark Louis, Sean McMonagle, Sean Bentivoglio, Joey Haddad, Blair Riley
Fourth line: Toms Rutkis, Sam Duggan, Matthew Myers, Josh Batch
Goaltenders: Devils, Ben Bowns and Thomas Murdy.
Referees: Miroslav Stolc and Antonín Jeřábek
|Group H (top two qualify)||PTS||GP||W||OTW||L||OTL||GF||GA||GDF|
|1 Mountfield HK||6||3||2||0||1||0||10||7||+ 3|
|2 Cardiff Devils||5||3||1||1||1||0||9||10||-1|
|3 Frölunda Indians||4||3||1||0||1||1||12||10||+ 2|