Cardiff Devils 4 Fife Flyers 1
Only one team has won at the Big Blue Tent in Cardiff this season - and it is easy to see why the rink has become a fortress.
Devils are arguably the single most dominant team in the EIHL - they combine power with skill, speed with physicality, and they suck every ounce of oxygene from the ice pad, leaving visting teams unable to breathe.
Fife Flyers knew the opening period was going to be tough.
A road trip which started at 7.00 a.m. meant they had to try to skate off their bus legs while trying to contain a Cardiff side bristling from defeat at the hands of their title rivals Sheffield the night before.
The damage done came inside three devastating minutes as Devils struck three times.
For sure, the home side were unassailable in that opening 20 minutes, but, thereafter, this game evened out as Flyers got into their stride and started to make some inroads.
They did as much as any team has achieved at the Big Blue Tent, and deserved probably more than a solitary goal.
The better side won - no question - but Flyers could point to a washed out goal at a key point as a potential turning point. The nets came off as the puck went in, and had it stood it would have become 3-2.
Instead referee Hogarth - who didn’t impress with some of his calls - washed it out, Devils went on to lead 4-1 and it was game over.
“That was a big turning point,” said coach Todd Dutiaume. “You are always under pressure here, and we knew what to expect, but we clawed them back well in the second, and had that goal stood then 3-2 becomes a different game.
“But Cardiff are a very, very good team so credit to our guys for fighting back. That encouraged me, and we have to build on that.”
There were plenty of plus points for Fife to take from their long road trip.
David Brown was solid, and made a good penalty shot save, Ryan Dingle and TJ Caig grafted, and Nico Sacchetti came alive in the second.
They didn’t create huge numbers of chances, but few teams do in Cardiff - Danny stewart was twice set up at the back post by Caig, netminder Bowns was lucky to escape when he lost sight of a puck under his pads from a Stewart flick, while the goalie spilled one from Dorr which slipped narrowly past the back post.
For Devils there were big games from across the bench, with Doucett sparkling, and Leigh Salters claiming stats of 1+1 in that powerhouse opening period.
He netted the first at 5:47 and set up the second for Joey Martin at 6:29. By 8:07 it was 3-0 as Doucett swept home a superb pass from Joey Martin.
Flyers called a time out and started to steady the ship - they got to the end of the period without further loss and their second period graft was rewarded with a goal at 26:22 as Caig motored down the left and set up Sacchetti.
The washed out goal came on the half hour and then Fife took a double minor - Fox for a check on the plexi, plus a bench minor as the ref took exception to something aimed at him.
Devils special team went to work and applied intense pressure before Hotham unleashed a fierce shot past Brown.
The third saw Fife back under pressure but once again they came off the ropes and worked diligently to find ways back into the hockey game.
It looked a forlorn hope as the referee awarded Devils a penalty shot in the 54th minute after Joey Haddad got the jump on two defenceman, and Kyle Haines brought him down, but Brown sprawled himself and blocked his shot.