By Harry Eade
Cardiff Devils suffered heartbreak in Sheffield on Sunday 6th March after coming agonisingly close to retaining their Challenge Cup crown. The Devils were defeated by Nottingham Panthers in the final, thanks to a sudden death overtime winner scored by Evan Mosey, putting the first, and the decisive, score of the match.
Despite producing a strong and well-organised performance, The Devils lacked that little bit of flair and failed to find their way through to the net. The first period saw few chances created for either team and, although the second period presented more opportunities, both teams remained solid in defence. After three periods of near misses, the match continued into a 20-minute spell of 4v4 sudden death.
Devils’ Trevor Hendrikx was presented with an outstanding chance to finally put the game to bed for the away team, only to have his shot blocked. Meanwhile, The Panthers continued to pile on the pressure until, with only four minutes of overtime remaining, Mosey broke the deadlock to break the hearts of over 1,000 Devils fans who had made the trip up to Yorkshire to watch their team.
Nevertheless, The Devils can remain positive from their performance in the final, especially having been thrashed 6-1 by The Panthers just a few days earlier in an Elite League game. Those two results rather sum up The Devils’ season.
Inconsistency was perhaps their downfall. Only in late January did the Cardiff team beat Nottingham Panthers 3-0 in a league fixture but now, just over a month later, The Devils have found themselves on the wrong end of the scoreline against The Panthers twice in quick succession.
A positive string of pre-season victories back in October, both home and away, led to a succession of Challenge Cup home victories at the start of the season for The Devils. However, their away performances have not been as convincing. In the first half of the season, the Cardiff team struggled to put consistent performances together on the road.
Fortunately for them, The Devils’ form on their travels in the latter half of the season has improved, combining this with their impressive home record to stay top of the Elite League for much of the season. Though Sheffield Steelers currently occupy the top spot having played a game extra.
A string of League losses at the end of February shows potential signs of a tiring Devils side as the season draws to a close, which threatens their chances of claiming the league title come the end of the campaign.
The Devils, however, will be looking to put these losses behind them – especially the Challenge Cup heartbreak – and turn their attention towards their next league contest against the Belfast Giants in what will be the first game in their new multi-million pound stadium at Ice Arena, Wales. The last time The Devils faced the Giants they walked away with a 3-1 win.
They will look to repeat a similar result and performance on the day, and hope that the new stadium and support from the team’s passionate fans will lead to success.