Cardiff Devils go into a crucial Challenge Cup clash when Guildford Flames are visitors to the Viola Arena.
Head coach Andrew Lord has strengthened the team by signing Great Britain international Sam Duggan, who had been playing for Jamestown Rebels in America.
Duggan skated with his new team-mates on Friday, the day before Devils take on Guildford Flames in a crucial cup match in Cardiff Bay this evening (7pm).
Captain Jake Morissette and his team need a regulation time win to clinch a place as top seeds in the competition and that would allow them to choose who they play in the quarter-finals.
Lord talked about his feelings at being able to sign the 20-year-old Duggan, rated among the most promising young players in British ice hockey.
“It’s unbelievable, I could not be more excited,” said Lord. “He’s a guy we’ve had our eyes on, probably along with all of UK hockey, for a long time.
“We were hopeful something would happen down the line, but it’s happened quicker than we thought. Our fan base are going to love him, he’s a great addition to our team.
“Sam skates well and has a great overall skill set with solid hands and a solid shot. Clearly, he can improve in all areas at his age.
“He seems the game really well and has a good hockey IQ alongside an extremely good work ethic.
“Sam is in on the forecheck and from tapes I’ve seen finishes his checks. For a player of that age I am impressed.
“His confidence, outlook and maturity also make him stand out. He doesn’t come across as a 20-year-old, is a smart guy who wants to improve every day.
“The kind of guy we want in our organisation.”
Duggan joins promising young players Craig Moore and Toms Rutkis in the Brit pack, while Devils’ team also includes goalies Ben Bowns and Thomas Murdy plus Mark Richardson, Josh Batch, Matthew Myers and player/assistant coach Luke Piggott.
“Sam, Craig and Ross are young guys who are all capable of being great players in this league,” said Lord. “I also love that we have a number of older veteran players who have done it before, well rounded guys.
“I need to challenge myself and find ways to make them better and be at their best, while at the same time developing our crop of young players.
“It’s an exciting challenge for me and I’ll face it head on.”
Devils face Flames (home, this evening) and Coventry Blaze (away, tomorrow) in cup fixtures this weekend.
Realistically, the clash with Guildford is critical and the trip to Blaze really doesn’t matter in terms of the quarter-finals.
If Cardiff win in regulation time against Flames they will be top seeds in the cup. If they lose or are forced into overtime Belfast Giants will be number one.
Blaze are bottom of the group and all results against them will be taken away from the final table.
“Guildford are a quality team with a good returning group,” said Lord. “They have Brett Ferguson back playing, while new signing TJ Foster is a quality player with a lot of speed. He certainly gives them more depth.
“We need to be ready with the speed and offensive punch they have.
“It will be a great game, a big one for us. We’ve made a solid start to the competition and want to keep that going.
TICKETS FOR TONIGHT – There are still tickets remaining for Saturday v Guildford. Book online CLICK HERE or call 0800 0842 666.
PARKING AT ICE ARENA WALES – Remember that Toys R Us and Wilcox House are both available for safe secure parking. Read about the parking options by CLICKING HERE.