Power forward Joey Haddad, a fiercely competitive forward from Nova Scotia, is without doubt one of the most improved players in the Cardiff Devils team.
We must pay tribute to the way British defenceman Mark Richardson and others have matched rising standards in Elite League hockey, but the contribution of Canadian Haddad stands out.
‘Chef’ – the nickname he earned through his cooking skills – has made almost 250 appearances for Devils, scoring 197 points.
This is Haddad’s fifth season playing for Devils and he is part of a core group who have won eight trophies over the last four campaigns including the League title and play-offs during 2017-18.
“Joey is a guy who makes me love coaching,” says Cardiff coach Andrew Lord. “To be totally honest the way he has improved over the last five years is remarkable.
“He has done a fantastic job. Joey was not an all-round player when he first came, but now he has all the assets needed. His puck retention is unbelievable, his forechecking is great.
“Joey creates chances for himself and others. He is a major driving force in our forward unit. He has an infectious enthusiasm and we want that to spread.”
The 6ft 2ins Haddad, who captained the Gwinnett Gladiators in the East Coast League before coming to Wales, is a highly influential player in a Devils team challenging for a third successive title.
Cardiff stand one point behind League leaders Belfast with a game in hand – and the two rivals still have to play each other four times.
Giants regained top spot with a 5-1 home win against MK Lightning, 24 hours after being knocked off top spot.
Belfast were a goal up inside four minutes through Lewis Hook, who was then a second assist on Blair Riley’s effort at 15-40.
Riley struck after 28-30 and just after halfway Darcy Murphy made it 4-0 and effectively [put the game out of MK’s reach.
Cole Shudra bagged the visitors’ consolation goal at 49-47 before Riley completed his hat-trick with a shorthanded effort with almost five and a half minutes left.
This evening’s Elite League fixtures:
A point clear at the top, Giants have the chance to make it a gap of three when they welcome Clan. The visitors, however, beat Belfast before Christmas in Glasgow and have been on a good run of late, despite losing to Manchester on Boxing day to a late goal.
“It will be a big challenge, as every game we’ve played against Glasgow has been so far this season,” says Belfast coach Adam Keefe.
“We need to ramp up the intensity. There are 29 games left in the regular season.
Blaze and Panthers suffered losses last time out on the road against rival teams, but the Blaze had a better time of it on Boxing Day with home win over Cardiff.
Panthers’ two losses against Sheffield means they’re now four points off the top having played three games more than the league leaders, while Coventry are two shy of the top eight although they do have games in hand.
7pm Sheffield Steelers v Manchester Storm (Tickets)
Steelers’ back-to-back wins over Nottingham weren’t just important for the rivalry. They kept Sheffield firmly in the play-offs picture and a win tonight would send them into the top five.
Sunday 30 v Guildford Flames (away, 6pm)
Tuesday 1 v Guildford Flames (home, 4pm)
Saturday 5 v Manchester Storm (home, 7pm)
Sunday 6 v Fife Flyers (away, 6.30pm)
Saturday 12 v Glasgow Clan (away, 7pm)
Sunday 13 v Nottingham Panthers (home, 6pm)
Saturday 19 v Belfast Giants (home, 7pm)
Sunday 20 v Belfast Giants (home, 4pm)
ELITE ICE HOCKEY LEAGUE 2018/19
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