Mark Smith in Cardiff Devils action.

Ex-Devils Ace ‘Smitty’ Appointed New Fire Head Coach

Former Cardiff Devils defenceman Mark Smith is the new coach for National Ice Hockey League club Cardiff Fire. 

Canadian Smith, whose brother Kenton also played for Devils, takes charge for this Saturday’s NIHL home match against Romford Raiders at the Viola Arena in Cardiff Bay (6.30pm).

Fire’s director of hockey Mark Cuddihy decided to make a coaching change after the team made a mixed start in Division Two South.

A statement by the club read: “Cardiff Fire have made the decision to part ways with player-coach Chris Douglas.  

“The netminder was brought in this past summer to take the helm, but Fire have made the decision to move in another direction.

“Fire thank Chris for his service and wish him every success with his future endeavours. Chris won’t be leaving Cardiff as he  looks to take a roll with Cardiff Juniors.”

Director of player development Smith now takes responsibility for coaching and Cuddihy said: “These decisions are always difficult, but I feel it suits all parties.

“Chris was becoming much busier with his day job and travelling a great deal to cover both roles. I am delighted he will be sticking around and helping Cardiff juniors. 

“We are lucky that Smitty has agreed to combine the two roles. Having worked with Mark last season I know the guys will have to react and work hard as we look to improve our league position.

Mark Smith.

“Mark’s experience is fantastic. He’s passionate about hockey, really loves the game and that’s going to rub off on everybody in the dressing room.”

Experienced goaltender Douglas, a former Cardiff Rage player, was appointed head coach at the start of this season, after playing for Slough Jets over the previous two years.

Douglas set out his aims by saying Fire would go for the play-offs, adding: “There is no reason why we cant break the top four.”

Now Douglas has moved on and Smith will head up a coaching team which includes Cuddihy and Phil Manny. 

Smith joined Devils in 2010 from Edinburgh Capitals.  

He had developed through the Alberta Junior hockey League, playing in 238 games and scoring 116 points before joining University of Alaska in the NCAA, the top college league in North America. 

Smith spent four years in NCAA hockey, playing 129 times and scoring 47 points.

Cardiff Fire’s Mark Cuddihy.

The man from Edmonton played for Charlotte Checkers (East Coast League) and Rocky Mountain Rage (Centre League) before heading to Britain.

He played for Edinburgh, Cardiff and Coventry Blaze in Elite League, making 252 appearances, and was consistently among the leading shot blockers in the UK.

Swindon Wildcats were his next club, but an injury meant he stopped playing and started a coaching career.

“I didn’t plan a move into coaching when I was playing, but when my playing career ended I realised the itch to stay within the game was there,” says Smith.

“I am confident in my abilities to help the Fire achieve success. I was always a player who brought 100 per cent to each and every game and training session.

“That is something that I will look for players to bring on a nightly basis. Bringing a team first mentality will also be crucial for our success.”

Cardiff Fire take on Romford at home this Saturday. 

Match tickets are available here bit.ly/cardiff-fire 

Cardiff Fire’s Phil Manny. Pic: James Assinder.

NIHL South Two fixtures:

December

Saturday 1: Solent Devils v Oxford City Stars, Lee Valley lions v Bristol Pitbulls, Bracknell Hornets v Slough Jets, Peterborough Phantoms v Invicta, Cardiff Fire v Romford Raiders.

Sunday 2: Guildford v Solent Devils, Romford Raiders v Basingstoke Buffalo, Swindon Wildcats v Chelmsford Chieftains.

Saturday 8: Solent Devils v Haringey Huskies, Invicta v Bracknell Hornets, Slough Jets v Guildford.

Sunday 9: Basingstoke Buffalo v Oxford City Stars, Guildford v Bristol Pitbulls, Swindon Wildcats v Peterborough Phantoms

English Ice Hockey Association

NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) 2018-19

P W OW OL L PIM F A Pts
1black_nochange.png Chelmsford Chieftains 12 10 0 1 1 360 94 26 21
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2black_nochange.png Oxford City Stars 10 9 0 0 1 153 81 24 18
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3black_nochange.png Slough Jets 11 8 1 0 2 191 90 36 18
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4black_nochange.png Solent Devils 10 8 0 0 2 265 73 29 16
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5green_up.png Raiders Junior S2 10 6 1 0 3 347 54 38 14
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6red_down.png Bracknell Hornets 9 6 0 1 2 271 67 38 13
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7red_down.png Guildford 10 6 0 1 3 208 41 27 13
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8red_down.png Bristol Pitbulls 12 4 1 2 5 192 43 51 12
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9black_nochange.png Peterborough Phantoms 11 2 3 0 6 169 53 50 10
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10black_nochange.png Cardiff Fire 10 4 1 0 5 385 44 54 10
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11black_nochange.png Haringey Huskies 11 3 0 1 7 479 47 61 7
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12black_nochange.png Invicta 11 2 0 1 8 226 31 63 5
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13black_nochange.png Basingstoke Buffalo 5 2 0 0 3 104 16 31 4
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14black_nochange.png Swindon Wildcats 2 11 0 0 0 11 196 17 95 0
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15black_nochange.png Lee Valley Lions 11 0 0 0 11 183 17 145 0
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