Dai Sport’s Terry Phillips sat down for a one-to-one chat with Cardiff Devils winger Matias Sointu after a training session at the Viola Arena.
Finnish forward Matias Sointu is loving life with Devils. The former Tampa Bay Lightning NHL draft pick shares an apartment in Cardiff Bay with club captain Joey Martin and says: “The club and the city are awesome.”
Sointu and his Devils team-mates are intrigued to experience the effect of a new standing area at the Viola Arena, being trialled during Saturday’s Challenge Cup home clash with Coventry Blaze.
The experiment follows Devils Champions Hockey League trip to Austria where they defeated Graz99ers 5-2 and their standing areas – effectively ‘football terraces’ – lifted the atmosphere.
Cardiff have changed block 13 at the Viola Arena into a standing section and managing director Todd Kelman says: “We are hoping this will inspire the same kind of atmosphere, we had for CHL games.
“Even if you’re not standing, join in with the chants and let’s make it a night to remember at the Viola Arena.”
Sointu has slotted in alongside Sean Bentivoglio and Stephen Dixon on a line that is causing problems for opposing teams in Elite League ice hockey and says: “There is a good atmosphere in our rink and it’s great to play there.
“The Champions League experience was excellent and Devils fans were fantastic. It felt like a home game in Graz because so many fans had travelled to Austria.”
Sointu, a former team-mate of fellow Cardiff forward Masi Marjamaki in the Finnish Elite League from 2010 to 2013, signed for Devils after Martin suffered a niggling injury.
“I did not have a contract and was looking for the right chance,” says Sointu, who played for IK Oskarshamn of the Swedish Allsvenskan League last season.
“I worked out through the summer and was skating regularly – I was ready to go as soon as the right offer came in.
“It was a quick decision. Everything was agreed in 24 hours and I was a Devils player. This is a good organisation and there are really good players in our team. Loads of skill.
“We agreed a one month contract and we’ll see how it works out. It feels good to be top of our CHL group with two fixtures left, while we need some positive results this weekend.
“I asked the guys about Elite League ice hockey and the Challenge Cup when I arrived and they simply said ‘Don’t worry – we just do everything possible to win every game’.
“There is no question I am enjoying my time in Cardiff.”
Devils are at home to Coventry at the Viola Arena tonight (Saturday) before travelling to Sheffield Steelers for an EIHL fixture on Sunday.
Sointu has played the majority of his professional hockey in the top league in Finland with Ilves and TPS. In 2018, he played a major part in the surprising run to the Austrian title for Bolzano, who beat Red Bull Salzburg in the play-offs finals that season.
He adds a lot of speed to the Devils line-up and highly effective offence, scoring five points (1+4) in three CHL appearances.
The Tampere-born forward, aged 29, is happy to be playing for Cardiff Devils and, personally, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he stayed for the rest of this season.
Former Devils connections to Finland.
Big-hitting forward Saku, now aged 41, is from Hattula in Southern Finland. He played 82 matches for Devils between 1998 and 2000.
Retired in 2003.
Playmaking centre who, like Marjamaki, is from Pori in Western Finland. Tahtinen its now aged 41 and retired from playing two years ago.
He made 15 appearances for Devils in 2014-15, scoring six points (2+4).
Tahtinen arrived in Cardiff after a 3,000-plus miles journey from Kazakhstan where he had been playing for Arystan Temirtau.
Centre from Helsinki. Now aged 48, retired from ice hockey in 2006. Scored 16 points (9+7) in 17 appearances for Devils.
Big D-man, 6ft 3ins tall, from Tampere, where Sointu was born. Three appearances for Devils.
Now aged, 28, last played in 2017-18.
Joined the under-18 set-up at Tampere-based Tappara in 2007 aged 16. Played 36 times in Finland’s top professional league.
Right-winger from Helsinki, now aged 48. Played 44 matches for Devils in 2000-01, scoring 33 points (16+17).
American D-man who played 12 matches for Devils last season before leaving to sign for Finnish club Tappara. Made 37 appearances for his new club and will play for them again next season.
Cardiff Devils results plus fixtures over the next month:
Friday 30 Cardiff Devils 3, Mountfield HK 2 (Champions Hockey League)
Sunday 1 Cardiff Devils 4, Graz 99ers 3 (Champions Hockey League)
Thursday 5 Mountfield HK 5, Cardiff Devils 2 (Champions Hockey League)
Saturday 7 Graz 99ers 2, Cardiff Devils 5 (Champions Hockey League)
Saturday 14 Cardiff Devils 5, Guildford Flames 3
Sunday 15 Cardiff Devils 5, Glasgow Clan 3
Thursday 19 Guildford Flames 3, Cardiff Devils 4
Saturday 21 Devils 2, Glasgow Clan 6
Sunday 22 Coventry Blaze 5 Devils 1
Saturday 28 Devils v Coventry Blaze (Challenge Cup, Viola Arena, 7pm)
Sunday 29 Sheffield Steelers v Devils (EIHL, 4pm)
Saturday 5 Devils v Manchester Storm (EIHL, Viola Arena, 7pm)
Sunday 6 Coventry Blaze v Devils (Challenge Cup, 5.30pm)
Tuesday 8 Frolunda Indians v Devils (Champions Hockey League fixture, 5pm)
Thursday 10 Devils v Dundee Stars (EIHL, 7.30pm)
Sunday 13 Coventry Blaze v Devils (EIHL, 5.30pm)
Tuesday 15 Devils v Frolunda Indians (Champions Hockey League fixture, Viola Arena, 7.30pm)
Saturday 19 Devils v Nottingham Panthers (EIHL, Viola Arena, 7pm)
Sunday 20 Nottingham Panthers v Devils (EIHL, 4pm)
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