By John Jones
With October ending with victories over Glasgow Clan and Coventry Blaze, the Cardiff Devils would have surely been confident in continuing this form into November’s jam-packed fixture list.
However, unfortunately for Andrew Lord’s team, this month has not always gone according to plan.
Things got off to a bumpy start for the Devils when they were again pitched against their Challenge Cup opponents Coventry at home in the league, having thrashed them 4-0 a week earlier.
After a goalless opening 20 minutes, the Devils broke the deadlock early on in the second period through Bryce Reddick.
However, a flurry of goals shortly followed, with the visitors scoring twice in 40 seconds to take a 2-1 lead, before extending this to 4-2 with half an hour played.
Gleason Fournier did well to reduce the deficit to one minutes later, but, as frustration set in, the Devils found themselves two men down, and Coventry ultimately ran out as 6-4 victors, with two more scores coming either side of a Charles Linglet consolation goal.
This loss was only Cardiff’s second in the league this season and, to make matters worse, they faced Nottingham Panthers – the team that they suffered their first loss to – a day later.
However, this game could have gone either way for the Devils, but they ultimately found themselves on the losing side again.
Despite being badly outshot by the hosts throughout, the Devils fought back to draw level on two occasions through Stephen Dixon and Josh Batch, before Justin Kovacs made it 3-2 inside the final period with a spectacular solo effort, winning the match for his side.
A miserable five days was compounded for the Devils as they lost out again in their midweek home clash against Fife Flyers.
Once again, Cardiff went behind early on, and scored twice to equalise in the second period, before having to repeat this feat after Fife moved 4-2 ahead through Mike Cazzola and Danick Gauthier.
With the scores still tied at 4-4 at the end of regulation time, Flyers’ Brett Bulmer struck a devastating blow less than two minutes into overtime, to grant his team a 5-4 victory, and hand the Devils their third Elite League loss on the bounce.
The following weekend, however, there was finally something for Devils fans to celebrate, as their team got back to winning ways with victory over the Lightning in Milton Keynes.
Whilst the Devils may have thought their losing streak was alarming, their hosts were in far worse shape, losing seven on the bounce before facing Andrew Lord’s men, to whom they had lost 9-1 and 5-4 earlier in the season.
The contest got off to an electric start, with Lightning goaltender Patrick Killeen being forced into making the first of what would be his 52 saves for the night, before Linglet slotted home his fifth league goal of the season seconds later.
After allowing the home side back into the game with two well-taken goals, the Devils ambushed Killeen’s net with 30 shots in the second period, with two finding their way in to reclaim the lead for the Cardiff side.
Fournier took full advantage of a late second period powerplay to make it 4-2, with his side managing to see out a cagey final 20 minutes to win the game.
This win gave the Devils some badly needed confidence ahead of their clash against the high-flying Belfast Giants, in what was their 1,000th game in the Elite League.
However, the visitors, with 14 league victories already under their belt this season, spoiled the party in devastating fashion, with Kyle Baun scoring four goals in a humiliating 8-1 drubbing.
With momentum lost, last weekend’s fixtures were crucial for the Devils in their ambition to successfully defend their league title.
In Saturday’s game, they once again faced Nottingham Panthers, and, this time, reversed the 3-2 score line that they had been on the wrong side of two weeks earlier.
After falling behind early on, goals from Joey Haddad and a first for rookie Sam Duggan saw the Devils head into the second period with a 2-1 lead, before Dylan Olsen grabbed his second to tie the game for the Panthers.
The scores stayed level and, as the game went to overtime, Joey Martin scooped the ball over Michael Garnett to seal the win for the Devils.
The following day, the Devils were granted some more favourable opposition, as they took on the Dundee Stars, who lie at the foot of the current Elite League standings, with two victories all season.
Charles Linglet, playing in his 900th professional regular season game, scored the opener before Dundee took the lead with two smartly-taken goals.
More goals were exchanged between the two sides in an exciting second period, with Stephen Dixon, Joey Martin and Layne Ulmer all netting to give the Devils a 4-3 lead after 40 minutes.
In the closing period, the Devils edged further away from their tired opposition, with Dixon grabbing his second before Jake Morrisette closed the game out for a 6-3 victory.
After a tricky month, these results will be encouraging for the Devils, ahead of their huge week of clashes against Fife, Manchester, MK Lightning and Glasgow. If they want to get their hands on the Elite League trophy again, it is crucial that their early-season momentum begins to build again.