Giants Add Firepower To Face Devils, But Lord’s Cardiff Have An Edge For Cup Clash At The Viola Arena

Cardiff Devils head coach Andrew Lord. Pic: Devils.

Giants Add Firepower To Face Devils, But Lord’s Cardiff Have An Edge For Cup Clash At The Viola Arena

Cardiff Devils face a gruelling seven matches in 15 days going into the New Year – and that is potentially their most critical spell of fixtures this season.

Captain Joey Martin and his Devils remain in the battle for Elite League and Challenge Cup glory, but they face a huge test at their Viola Arena home in Cardiff Bay this evening.

Cup holders Belfast Giants visit Cardiff for the second leg of their quarter-final with Devils holding a 1-0 advantage from the first game in Northern Ireland.

Adam Keefe, Belfast’s head coach, moved swiftly to add extra firepower to his team by signing forward Rickard Palmberg. He is available to play in Cardiff subject international clearance.

The Swede started this season in Zlín, but left the Czech Extraliga after just over a handful of games. Last season he played Timra IK in his home country, notching nine goals and 22 assists in 46 games. 

He previously spent three seasons in the Allsvenskan at Vita Hästen, scoring 85 points in 126 matches.

“Richard will add creativity to our offence and I know Giants fans will enjoy seeing him in action during an important period of games,” said Keefe.

“We played a good game in the first leg against Cardiff and outworked them for large parts, but just didn’t score. We need the same again tonight, but when we get our looks we have to finish them.”

Devils certainly can’t afford to be outworked and coach Andrew Lord said: “We have to play with fire and intensity for 60 minutes. Belfast are on heck of a team, a great team, and this will be one of the better games this season.

“It’s a shame this is a quarter-final and this is a huge test for us, but I love that we are in the mix.

“We have been growing as a team by leaps and bounds. We are far better now than we were a month or two ago, consistently a lot better.”

Other quarter-final second legs this evening:

7.30pm Guildford Flames v Nottingham Panthers (first leg 1-5)

Guildford face the biggest task of all as they try to overturn a four-goal aggregate deficit on home ice. 

“We’ve put ourselves in a hole, but we’re back on our own ice and the most important thing will be to get the first goal,” said Flames coach Paul Dixon.

7.30pm Manchester Storm v Sheffield Steelers (first leg 2-5)

Manchester have beaten Steelers every time they’ve met at the Storm Shelter this season. Sheffield have an unwanted record of no wins in Altrincham since September last year.  

Storm have enjoyed three, four and one-goal winning margins against Sheffield in their three meetings this season and if they can use their own ice to their advantage again then it has the potential to be an uncomfortable night for the visitors.

“We’re confident in our rink and have enough motivation, especially coming of what happened in the first leg.” Said Storm coach and former Devils captain Ryan Finnerty.

Welshman Jonathan Phillips, the Welshman who is Steelers’ captain, said: “It’s a help being 3-0 ahead, obviously, but, we know we can’t just turn up there and expect to win, or expect to advance. 

“We haven’t won there yet this season and have no right to take anything for granted. It’s kind of like old-school hockey in a way, playing in their building. 

“You can’t be trying to make fancy plays around the outside and float pucks in. It is literally a case of heads down and drive the net.” 

If overtime is needed in any games tonight because the scores are level on aggregate after 60 minutes, then it is played 3-on-3 for five minutes, sudden death. 

Should no winning goal be scored, a regular Elite League shootout will follow.

Glasgow Clan are already through to the semi-finals, having beaten Dundee Stars over two legs, and await three more teams from Wednesday’s matches.

The semi-final format is the same as in previous seasons – the highest-ranked team left plays the lowest, leaving two remaining teams for the other tie. 

The ranking of teams after the group stage was as follows:

1 Dundee (Group Winners) – now eliminated

2 Guildford (Group Winners)

3 Sheffield (Group Winners)

4 Nottingham

5 Cardiff

6 Glasgow

7 Belfast

8 Manchester (‘Play-In’ winners)

If Guildford advance they will play the lowest-ranked team remaining. Should they be knocked out, Sheffield will play the lowest-ranked team left. 

In the event of both losing, Nottingham would be the highest-ranked team left in the competition.

Devils’ run of five successive wins came to and end when they lost 3-2 at home against Nottingham Panthers with the winner scored shorthanded during overtime.

Cardiff still earned a point from the EIHL match because the scores were level after 60 minutes.

Match stats, Devils v Panthers:

Scorers, Devils: Matt Pope 1+1, Gleason Fournier 1+0, Mike McNamee 0+1, Sean McMonagle 0+1, Matthew Myers 0+1

Panthers: Mark Matheson 1+0, Julian Talbot 1+1, Oliver Betteridge 1-0 (shorthanded overtime goal), Samuel Herrt 0+1, Jacob Hansen o+1, Brian Connolly 0+1, Georgs Golovkovs 0+1, 

Period scores (Devils first): 0=1; 1-1 (1-2); 1-0 (20); 0-1 (2-3 after overtime)

Penalties in minutes: Devils 4+2+2=8; Panthers 4+4+2=10

Powerplays: Devils 4, Panthers 3

Face-offs won: Devils 33, Panthers 22

Shots on goal: Devils (on Carr 42, Panthers (on Bowns) 37

Goalie: Ben Bowns (back-up Thomas Murdy)

First line: Gleason Fournier, Mark Richardson, Sean Bentivoglio, Joey Martin, Blair Riley

Second line: Mark Louis, Sean McMonagle, Charles Linglet, Mike McNamee, Matt Pope

Third line: Sam Jardine, Shaone Morrisonn, Sam Duggan, Matthew Myers, Bryce Reddick

Fourth line: Josh Batch, Stephen Dixon, Joey Haddad

Attendance: 2,950

Referees: Matt Rose, Dean Smith

Man of the match: Matt Pope

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