Ben Bowns was brutally honest in his assessment of Cardiff Devils’ latest venture into Europe.
Great Britain goalie Bowns blamed himself for Devils 5-2 home defeat against Austrians Red Bull Salzburg at Ice Arena Wales.
The visitors powered into a 4-0 lead within 25 minutes before captain Jake Morissette and his players hit back with power and style.
Salzburg were reeling when Devils pulled the score back to 4-2 and were only able to relax when the puck bounced badly in front of Bowns and went in for their fifth.
“It came down to the goalies and my performance wasn’t good enough,” said Bowns. “Their goalie was excellent. Yes, he was lucky at times, but there’s an old saying ‘It’s good to be lucky and lucky to be good.’
“Unfortunately, I wasn’t eigther.
“The difference came down to the fact that their goaltending was good and ours wasn’t.
“We’ll regroup on Friday, get back on the ice in training and hopefully beat SC Bern on Saturday.
“Even at 4-2 down we still might have been able to steal it. Overall, we were the better team, but ran out of puck luck in front o their net.”
What a night of European hockey it was in Cardiff Bay. Devils were 4-0 down less than halfway through the game, hit back with two goals and then, midway through the final period, Salzburg were hit by a 2+2 penalty.
Home fans were cheering and chanting, the atmosphere was electric and Salzburg were hanging on.
The puck flashed around the Austrian goal with blocks, deflections, near misses and top class saves from netminder Lukas Herzog keeping Devils out.
Visitors Salzburg have qualified for the CHL in all of the last five seasons, but they cannot have had many more testing matches than this.
Only when Martin Stanjoch scored with three and a half minutes left, courtesy of a terrible puck bounce in front of Bowns, were Salzburg able to relax a little.
The home team welcomed back Charles Linglet and Justin Faryna after injuries, while Matthew Myers sat out the game even though he is close to fitness.
Salzburg’s European experience was crucial, but Devils matched them for long periods and the cheer which greeted Layne Ulmer’s goal after 28 minutes must have been heard in the City centre.
There is a difference in style, both playing and refereeing between Europe and Britain. Elite League teams play a gritty, hard-hitting style, while many European teams love to play with speed and high levels of skill.
Devils have an abundance of both, but Salzburg rely on those factors, both in defence and offence.
Cardiff were penalised at times during the first period for what looked soft calls, but the game developed into a physical CHL games. That suited Cardiff.
The passion, commitment and sheer willingness to work for each other of Lord’s Devils was remarkable. They were 4-0 down when Ulmer scored and that sparked a charge which had Salzburg under siege and left them breathless at times.
At the height of the pressure a goal judge activated the light behind Salzburg’s net, but the referees waved play on and then Michael Hedden struck with a goal which fired up the atmosphere again.
Canadian Hedden powered away from a D-man, went one-on-one with the goalie and left him helpless with a clinical finish.
That came 17 seconds before the second period finished – and sent Salzburg players in wondering whether a 4-2 lead was enough?
The next goal was crucial and it went the way of Cardiff’s visitors and the Austrians fly out on Friday with the win they wanted. Salzburg, though, certainly knew they’d been in a match.
In the other group G match played on Thursday SC Bern, who visit Ice Arena Wales on Saturday, won 2-1 against Vaxjo Lakers away.
Scorers, Devils: Layne Ulmer 1+0, Michael Hedden 1+0, Matthew Pope 0+2, Mark Louis 0+1, Jake Morissette 0+1.
Salzburg: Dominic Heinrich 2+0, John Hughes 1+0, Michael Schiechl 1+0, Martin Stanjoch 1+0, Dustin Grazley 0+1, Christopher Vandevelde 0+1, Mario Huber 0+2, Alexander Cijan 0+1, Layne Viveiros 0+1, Ryan Duncan 0+1, Thomas Raffl 0+1.
Period scores (Devils first): 0-3; 2-1 (2-4); 0-1 (2-5).
Penalties in minutes: Devils 8+6+0=14; Salzburg 4+6+4=14.
Men of the match: Devils, Mark Richardson; Salzburg, Dominic Heinrich.
Goalies: Ben Bowns, Thomas Murdy.
First: Mark Louis, Gleason Fournier, Joey Haddad, Joey Haddad, Sean Bentivoglio.
Second: Mark Richardson, Josh Batch, Matthew Pope, Layne Ulmer, Michael Heden.
Third: Bryce Reddick, Ben Blood, Justin Faryna, Stephen Dixon, Charles Linglet.
Fourth: Craig Moore, Jake Morissette, Toms Rutkis plus a pair of D-men rotating in.
What a save by Ben Bowns. pic.twitter.com/3UXV3NJ9D8
— Alex Nunn (@aj_ranger) August 30, 2018
Goalies: Lukas Herzog, Stephen Michalek.
First: Dominique Heinrich, Brent Regner, Thomas Raffl, Ryan Duncan, Brant Harris.
Second: Robert Raymond, Martin Stajnoch, Dustin Grazley, Christopher Vandevelde, John Hughes.
Third: Layne Viveiros, Matthias Trattnig, Alexander Cijan, Dario Winkler, Christof Wappis.
Fourth: DanielJakubitzka, Florian Baltram, Mario Huber, Michael Schiech, Peter Hochkofler.
Referees: Geoffrey Barcelo, Pavel Halas.
Tickets for Saturday’s CHL fixture against SC Bern on Saturday are on sale now ONLINE HERE or by calling 0800 0842 666 or in person at Arena reception.
The top two teams in the group will progress to the knockout stages.
Cardiff’s Champions League result and group fixtures:
Thursday 30: Cardiff Devils 2, Red Bull Salzburg 5
Saturday 1: Cardiff Devils v SC Bern (7.15pm, Champions League)
Thursday 6: Red Bull Salzburg v Cardiff Devils (7.30pm, Champions League)
Saturday 8: SC Bern v Cardiff Devils (7.45pm, Champions League)
Tuesday 9: Vaxjo Lakers v Cardiff Devils (6.30pm, Champions League)
Tuesday 16: Cardiff Devils v Vaxjo Lakers (7.30pm, Champions League)