Cardiff Devils hold a one goal lead going into the second leg of their Challenge Cup quarter-final second leg against Glasgow Clan.
On a night when Belfast Giants crushed Dundee Stars 8-0 in their first leg tie, Devils ground out a gritty road win.
They led 3-0 and 4-1, but Clan kept battling and will feel they still have a chance when they play at Cardiff’s Viola Arena in the second leg on Friday, December 14.
Devils looked on course for a 4-2 win, but Clan scrambled the puck home with 22 seconds left when Vaclav Stupka, a 32-year-old Slovakian international playing his first season outside of his home country, scored.
That sets up a big second leg in Cardiff Bay.
Devils opened in style, outshooting their hosts 14-7 in the first period and scoring after four minutes 24 seconds when Mike Hedden and Drew Schiestel set up Stephen Dixon.
Three minutes later, Devils doubled their lead scored Charles Linglet after good work by Hedden and Josh Batch.
At 16-44 Joey Martin added a third goal which was originally down as unassisted, but later had Gleason Fournier and Matt Pope added with assists.
Clan looked in trouble, but they fought back with a passion and Zach Fitzgerald netted two minutes into the period.
Pope restored the three-goal lead at 32-08 when a defensive error led to him scoring unassisted, while Clan pulled a goal back at 35-45 when home man of the match Brendan Connolly beat Ben Bowns.
Devils looked like they were going to cruise into the second leg with a two-goal advantage, but in the dying seconds Stupka batted in a loose puck after a scramble in front of the Devils net to make it 4-3 with 22 seconds to play.
The game finished that way, which means the Devils hold the one-goal lead going into the second leg at Cardiff’s Viola Arena (formerly Ice Arena Wales) on Friday, December 14.
One EIHL match was played on Wednesday with Nottingham Panthers winning 4-1 against MK Lightning.
Match stats (Clan v Devils):
Scorers, Clan: Zack Fitzgerald 1+0, Brendan Connolly 1+0, Vaclav Stupka 1+0, Matt Stanisz 0+1, Scott Pitt 0+2, Trevor Erhardt 0+2, Josh Gratton 0+1.
Devils: Stephen Dixon 1+0, Charles Linglet 1+0, Joey Martin 1+1, Matt Pope 1+0, Mike Hedden 0+2, Drew Schiestel 0+1, Josh Batch 0+1, Gleason Fournier 0+1.
Period scores (Clan first: 0-3; 2-1 (2-4); 1-0 (3-4).
Shots on goal: Clan (on Bowns) 7+14+7=28; Devils (on Rumpel) 14+4+5=23.
Penalties in minutes: Clan 0+0+2=2; Devils 0+2+4=6.
Special teams: Clan PK 1/1, PP 0/3; Devils PK 3/3, PP 0/1.
Stars of the game: Clan, Brendan Connolly; Devils, Joey Haddad.
Referees: Toby Craig and Blake Copeland.
Cardiff Devils remaining fixtures in 2018
Saturday 1 v Fife Flyers (away, 7.15pm)
Sunday 2 v Dundee Stars (home, 6pm)
Wednesday 5 v Guildford Flames (home, 7.30pm)
Sunday 9 v Belfast Giants (away, 4pm)
Friday 14 v Glasgow Clan (home, 7.30pm, Challenge Cup)
Saturday 15 v Manchester Storm (away, 7pm)
Thursday 20 v MK Lightning (away, 7.30pm)
Saturday 22 v Dundee Stars (home, 7pm)
Sunday 23 v Guildford Flames (away, 6pm)
Wednesday 26 v Coventry Blaze (away, 6pm)
Thursday 27 v Coventry Blaze (home, 7pm)
Sunday 30 v Guildford Flames (away, 6pm)
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