Cardiff Devils forwards Mike McNamee and Masi Marjamaki Devils. (credit David Williams).

Bownsy At HIs Peak Going Into Champions League

Netminder Ben Bowns is fired up for another huge Cardiff Devils season – and he’s feeling in peak condition after a busy summer.

Devils have completed their match preparations for the 2019-20 season and are now focused own Friday’s opening Champions Hockey League fixture against Czech team Mountfield HK at the Viola Arena in Cardiff Bay.

Bowns was in outstanding form for Devils and Great Britain last season, winning the Elite League play-offs title at club level and helping to maintain GB’s place in the top tier off the World Championships.

Their win against France, clinched by Welshman Ben Davies in overtime, staved off relegation and sparked huge celebrations in the British camp.

Bowns, who married long-term partner Jade during the close season, spoke to the Champions Hockey League website about 2018-19 and the challenges ahead.

“The game for GB against France was my 91st game of the season and I doubt there are many goalies in the World that have played that many matches in a season,” said Bowns, who married long-term partner Jade during the close season.

“The summer went like lightning. Hockey finished at the end of May and I had about two weeks of chilling.

“Then Tom Murdy (Devils backup goalie) put on a stag do for us. That took about a week, then we got married and went on honeymoon for two weeks.

“It’s gone really quick this summer and to be fair I’ve actually come back and feel in the best shape I ever have.

“It was so much time away from the rink and that has given me a bit of separation from hockey which did me well after a long season.”

Devils open their CHL campaign with back-to-back home matches against Mountfield on Friday and Austrian club Graz99ers two days later.

Cardiff are heading into their third straight year in the Champions Hockey League, where they’ll face reigning champions Frölunda Indians, Graz99ers and Mountfield HK.

Excitement is building ahead of the opening CHL fixtures – and Devils have a team capable of making an impact at European level.

Yorkshireman Bowns is a key player for Devils and GB, but he remains modest about his input to success for club and country.

“I didn’t think have the best World Championships and didn’t play as well as I probably could have, but it was better than a lot of people expected.

When you first come into a league sometimes everybody expects you to not be that great. Then you play well and all of a sudden everybody thinks you’re amazing.

“For me, though, there were certain areas of my game I wasn’t happy with. You should always put more pressure on yourself and you have to be realistic. Even though I don’t think I had the best World Championships I’m still really, really happy with it.”

First up for Devils are Mountfield HK on Friday at Viola Arena (7.30pm). Mountfield are making their fourth straight CHL appearance after another top four finish in the Czech Extraliga.

They will be bolstered by the arrival of former NHL netminder Marek Mazanec, who spent last season with the New York Rangers’ farm team the Hartford Wolfpack. 

Key returnees from last season are defenceman Petr Zamorsky, who led Mountfield in points with 38 (10 goals, 28 assists) in 50 games and Tomas Vincour, who led the team in goals with 21 in 44 games. 

Czech player Vincour played 95 NHL games for Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche before returning home.

Mountfield are captained by Radek Smoleňák. The 32-year-old was drafted number 73 overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2005 and played six games at the top level in 2008-09 for Chicago Blackhawks the following season.

He played more than 200 games in the American League for Springfield Falcons, Norfolk Admirals and Abbotsford Heat before moving back to the Czech Republic in 2010.

Smoleňák played more than 100 games in the KHL and Finnish Liiga, while he had spells in Sweden and Switzerland. This will be his third season with Mountfield and scored 34 points in 38 games last season.

“We know how the CHL is going to go,” says Bowns. “During out first year in we went at teams when we probably should have sat back, and then last season we sat back when we probably should have gone at teams.

“That was due to the fact our team for 2018-19 was so much better than the season before and a lot more capable at playing at that level even though we didn’t win a game.

“Most of the games were pretty close. Look at that game against Red Bull Salzburg in Cardiff Bay when we had a bit of a first period collapse, but dominated most of that game and they are a top team in the EBEL.

“We were unfortunate not to earn a win and we have to take that in. We’ll look at who we’ve drawn this time and I’m confident we can pull something out and it would be nice to make it out of the groups this time.

“We’ve come with more speed again this season, more skill as well. That’s a trend in Elite League. It’s getting a lot faster, far more skilful.

“There is a lot of energy in the room. Yes, there is always energy in the room when you first come in, but this year it seems there’s a real positive energy about the place.”


Cardfiff Devils number one goalie Ben Bowns. Pic: Dave Williams.

“Our first goal is to get through the first round,” said Masi Marjamäk during an interview with the CHL website. “We go game-by-game and are trying to improve our game day-by-day. We’re excited ahead of the CHL fixtures.

“The organisation has been great and I feel we’re going to have one hell of a year.”

On Sunday (4pm)  Devils host Austrians Graz99ers, who make their first ever CHL appearance after winning the Austrian EBEL League’s regular season.  Last year’s leading scorer Colton Yellow Horn, a 32-year-olds Canadian from Alberta, returns after an impressive 24 goals and 34 assists for 58 points in 51 games during 2018-19. 

Yellow Horn played for Manchester Monarchs in the American League before playing EBEL hockey.

A big off-season for the 99ers is Swedish netminder Cristopher Nihlstorp who has moved to Graz from Malmo in the Swedish Elite League where he spent the past 5 seasons after a brief stint in the NHL with Dallas Stars.

Tickets for both games CHL can be purchased through the Devils website or by calling 0800 0842 666.

Cardiff Devils coach Andrew Lord. Pic: David Williams.

Cardiff Devils pre-season and Champions League results/schedule:


Saturday 10 Cardiff Devils 5 Fehervar 2

Sunday 11: Cardiff Devils 2, Fehervar 4

Saturday 17: Nottingham Panthers 3, Cardiff Devils 2

Sunday 18 Cardiff Devils 2, Nottingham Panthers 0

Sunday 25 Cardiff Devils 2 MAC Budapest 4

Friday 30 Cardiff Devils v Mountfield HK (Champions Hockey League fixture, Viola Arena, 7.30pm)


Sunday 1 Cardiff Devils v Graz 99ers (Champions Hockey League fixture, Viola Arena, 4pm)

Thursday 5 Mountfield HK v Cardiff Devils (Champions Hockey League fixture, 5pm)

Saturday 7 Graz 99ers v Cardiff Devils (Champions Hockey League fixture, 6.15pm)


Tuesday 8 Frolunda Indians v Devils (Champions Hockey League fixture, 5pm)

Tuesday 15 Devils v Frolunda Indians (Champions Hockey League fixture, Viola Arena, 7.30pm) 

Some of the most important things fans need to know about the CHL format:

1. Three points for a win

Similar to most domestic leagues in Europe (not Elite League) there are three points for a win in regulation time. If the game goes to overtime, both teams receive a point – and will play sudden-death, or a shootout if necessary, to determine the winners who receive an additional point.

2. Overtime

If we need overtime in a game, it’s played 3-on-3 with the first goal scored being the game’s winner.

3. Shootouts

Shootouts are ‘Best of 5’. If that doesn’t solve things, we reverse the order the teams shoot in and go to ‘sudden death’ where anyone can step up to shoot for the first time, or again from earlier rounds.

4. Top two go through

The top two teams in each group qualify for the last 16. Group winners are seeded against runners-up at a draw in October.

5. Every point counts for the team AND their country

It’s not just themselves teams are playing for. Rankings decide how many places each league earns next season. Leagues are ranked based on the average number of points per game. So in the cases of Sweden and Switzerland, this means ‘How many points did their five teams manage on average?’

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