Cardiff Devils are ready to leap into the Flames again – and their Challenge Cup hopes are on the line.
Coach Andrew Lord and his Devils have been in the final for three successive years and lifted the trophy twice, beating Sheffield Steelers in the final last season.
Now Flames, the team who have given Devils most problems in Elite League this season, come to Ice Arena in Cardiff Bay on Wednesday for a one-off shoot-out.
The rivals drew 3-3 in the first leg of their quarter-final and go head-to-head in the return with Steelers awaiting the winners.
In their last 16 league and cup matches, Devils have won 14, tied one (v Flames) and lost one (v Flames in overtime).
Guildford, though, have beaten Devils three times in five matches this season, winning home and away in the cup group stages and 3-2 in a league match at the Spectrum in Surrey.
Cardiff have only managed one win, 4-2 at home in the league, and know they have to find the right formula at the IAW on Wednesday (7.30pm).
Flames have three players among the League’s top five points scorers with John Dunbar at number one on 50, followed by Calie Ackered third on 45 and Jesse Craig fifth on 42.
The trio are the top three in Elite League on assists – Dunbar 39, Craig 35, Ackered 31.
It was Dunbar who scored Guildford’s overtime winner against Cardiff on Saturday, condemning Lord’s men to defeat and ending a 13-match unbeaten run.
Flames also have a netminder, Chris Carrozzi, who has been in sizzling form.
Devils have scored 15 goals in their five matches against a Guildford team who include Cardiff-born former Bishop of Llandaff School pupil Ben Davies in their team. Guildford have netted 19 times against Cardiff.
Lord and his team will be fully prepared when they skate out against Flames this week and their first three lines will again be Paul Crowder, Justin Faryna and Joey Haddad; Sean Bentivoglio, Patrick Asselin and Layne Ulmer; Matt Pope, Joey Martin and Jake Morissette.
With Josh Batch, Craig Moore and Drew Paris all out injured, Devils then rotate line-mates to play alongside Matthew Myers and Luke Piggott.
While Devils prepare to fire up their Challenge Cup defence, Nottingham Panthers are reflecting on their 5-2 defeat at the IAW on Sunday.
They were on a four-match winning streak before coming to South Wales, but were 4-0 down after the first period.
Panthers now play back-to-back away fixtures against Belfast Giants this weekend and Neilson said after the defeat in Cardiff: “There were just too many mistakes.
“Give Cardiff credit, they’re an opportunistic team. They had opportunities to score goals and put the puck in the net. We generated a tonne of five on five chances, but never took them.
“Netminder Ben Bowns was exceptional and we had a lot of disappointed guys. They looked engaged and ready to go before the game.
“Special teams is again a factor, too.”
Panthers are now seventh in the Elite League, 11 points behind leaders Devils.
Wednesday’s Challenge Cup quarter-final against Guildford is included on Devils season tickets. There is no need for holders to do anything except show up with their season ticket.
Match tickets can be bought via ONLINE HERE or by telephone on 0800 0842 666.
Anybody interested in taking a suite for up to 16 people for the midweek game contact the club via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0800 0842 666.