Captain Jake Morissette played a leading role for Cardiff Devils in their Challenge Cup triumph against Guildford Flames.
‘Mo’ scored the first two Devils goals in a 6-2 win at Ice Arena Wales which completed a 9-5 quarter-final aggregate victory.
The reward for ‘Mo’s’ men is a two-leg semi-final clash with Sheffield Steelers and head coach Andrew Steelers: “We have an unbelievable rivalry with Steelers.
“Two teams with well run organisations, a ton of depth on both and a lot of big game players.
“Those factors have led to a lot of epic matches during my four years here and results going with ways. We’ve experienced heartbreak and triumph.
“I’m sure our cup semi-final will go down to the wit. I can’t wait. The excitement is building already.”
Flames arrived in Cardiff Bay with speed, goalscoring potency and a huge desire to end Cardiff’s love affair with the Challenge Cup.
Devils have played in the last three finals, winning twice and are current holders of the trophy.
“Cardiff are the class act in this League,” says Flames forward Geoff Walker. “They are such a good team. Big, deep, well coached and they have great fans.”
Head coach Andrew Lord and his team go forward to play Sheffield Steelers over two legs in the semi-finals, while Nottingham Panthers and Belfast Giants clash on then other side of the draw.
Devils powered to a 3-0 lead during the opening 20 minutes against Flames and Lord said: “That first period was awesome, some of the better hockey we’ve played this season.
“Guys were flying, playing with intensity. There was a play-off feel to the game.
“We have to play up tempo and on the body. Guys bought into that, they bought into everything.
“Guildford played a great second period and took the game to us. There were great saves, outstanding defensive efforts, stick detail and blocked shots.
“In the third we were back to it a lot more.”
Morissette (2), Patrick Asselin (2), Sean Bentivoglio and Matt Pope scored for Devils against Flames and the teams clash again in Elite League action this Sunday (Ice Arena Wales, 6pm).
Devils are without a match on Saturday, giving Lord an extra day and extra rest to prepare for their next battle with Guildford.
Two goals in less than two minutes near the end of the opening period put Devils in control at 3-0 ahead.
Morissette scored to nudge Devils into a 4-3 aggregate lead at 10 minutes 41 seconds. He added his second at 16-55 before Asselin netted 97 seconds later.
There were no goals in the second, but Brett Ferguson pulled a goal back before Bentivoglio made it 4-1 on the night.
Asselin’s second with little more than six minutes left strengthened Devils’ grip and that effectively killed off Guildford hopes.
John Dunbar pulled one back and they lifted goaltender Chris Carrozzi to send out an extra skater.
Pope scored an empty net goal to complete the scoring and clinch Cardiff’s place in the last four.
“Those couple of goals at the end of the first really did the damage,” said Flames assistant coach Milos Melicherik.
“We had a lot of pressure and really outshot them in the second, but could not find the net.
“It was crucial we cut the deficit to give ourselves a real crack at it in the third, but we didn’t do that.
“Credit to a high quality, experienced Devils team who were ready to do exactly what was needed to move us aside. They deserve their spot in the final four.”
Scorers, Devils: Jake Morissette 2+0, Patrick Asselin 2+1, Sean Bentivoglio 1+1, Matt Pope 1+0, Joey Martin 0+2, Paul Crowder 0+1, Layne Ulmer 0+1, Gleason Fournier 0+1.
Period scores (Devils first): 3-0; 0-0 (3-9); 3-2 (6-2).
Shots on goal: Devils (on Carrozzi) 13+3+8=24; Flames (on Bowns) 6+14+10+30.
Penalties in minutes: Devils 2+4+0=6; Flames 4+2+2=8.
Powerplays: Devils 0/4; Flames 0/3.
Referee: Mike Hicks and Dean Smith.
Stars of the game: Devils, Jake Morissette; Flames, Brett Ferguson.
Belfast Giants clinched their place in the cup semi-finals, beating Fife Fliers 7-0 in the second leg and 10-3 on aggregate.
The reward for Giants is a semi-final against Nottingham Panthers, who play back-to-back League games in Belfast this weekend.
“The win was good for our confidence moving into a big weekend against Panthers,” said head coach Adam Keefe.
“They are a good hockey team and we’ll need to be at our best in the semi-finals and this weekend.
“Nottingham are a team who have had our number in the Challenge Cup over the years and we owe them one.
“It was a great performance from the guys against Fife and we wanted to make sure we showed up and understood the importance of the game.”
Dates for home and away legs in the semi-finals will be announced as soon as possible.
Devils match tickets can be bought via ONLINE HERE or by telephone on 0800 0842 666.