American Evan Mosey has added a new dynamic for Cardiff Devils in their Elite League title chase.
Devils have 10 fixtures to play and are two points clear at the top with a game in hand on closest rivals Belfast Giants.
They take on Sheffield Steelers at the Viola Arena in Cardiff Bay this evening (Sunday), while Giants are at home against Manchester Storm.
“Evan is a huge player for us,” said Devils head coach Andrew Lord. “Our D-corps have changed a little over the season with a couple of departures.
“Evan came in and gives us minutes back there. He has changed the dynamic with his foot speed, coming from behind and joining the rush. He keeps mistakes to a minimum and is a real buzzsaw for us and we missed his energy a little while he was out.”
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Devils can guarantee a Champions League spot with a win against Steelers in Cardiff Bay this evening. Giants will play in Europe after doing well in the Continental Cup, which means any other team finishing first or second in Elite League will join them.
A Devils win against Steelers combined with Glasgow Clan dropping even one point would confirm Cardiff’s place in the Champions League for a third successive season.
“Elite League hockey is really good now, it’s exciting,” says Lord. “We have another huge game at home against a team who showed exactly how dangerous they are when they played Belfast last night.”
Sheffield coach Tom Barrasso says his Steelers are ready for their challenge against Devils in South Wales.
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“We couldn’t be in a better frame of mind,” says Barrasso. “Cardiff are the best team in Elite League and their depth is unmatched, but we need to have the same commitment as we did against Belfast and take the chances we get.”
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Opposite fortunes on Saturday night means that Belfast head home to the SSE Arena with anything less than a win not really an option.
Giants are one win behind Cardiff in the league title race and have played a game more, leaving them practically no margin for error.
“The only positive from last night was that we ticked off another road game which is now done,” said head coach Adam Keefe.
“We have to win.”
Former Devils captain Ryan Finnerty is Manchester Storm coach and his team could strike a blow for his old club.
“We’re the underdogs,” says Finnerty. “We’ll need to go in, play a greasy road game and see what happens. “It’s a long travel day getting on the plane, then bus to the arena, and playing. We’ve won there doing that before and it’s what we’ll try to do again.”
4pm Nottingham Panthers v Fife Flyers (Tickets)
Nottingham return to home ice after a disappointing game in Milton Keynes on Saturday where they returned with only a point.
That did extend their advantage in fourth with other results going their way, but means the side have just the one win four after being on a small streak before.
6pm Guildford Flames v Glasgow Clan (Tickets)
A third meeting in a week between Flames and Clan.
Guildford Spectrum is the only venue in the Elite League where Clan have failed to win since the club was formed.
Pete Russell will be hoping the fifth time is a charm for his side, who are also looking to better their recent away record which stands at just one win from their last six.
“We have eight games to go and have a target to solidify the third place,” says Clan head coach Peter Russell. “It’s a tough place to go, they use their rink well and we’ll need to get into the game immediately.”