EIHL: Devils call the tune as rivals drop points
Cardiff Devils are starting to ramp up the intensity in the race to land ice hockey's Elite league title.
The Welsh side are bidding for back to back championships, and are firmly in control as January comes to an end,.
Andrew Lord’s side enjoyed another four-point weekend while the chasing pack all had mixed fortunes – and now have a solid seven-point lead with a game in hand.
Devils met struggling Coventry Blaze in a double header at the weekend, and won both games, albeit on one-goal margins each night.
Saturday’s game in Cardiff yielded a 2-1 win thanks to Patrick Asselin’s winner with just 69 seconds left on the clock. Skipper Jake Morrissette then netted a double, including the winner, in a 3-2 win in the Midlands the following night.
Second top Belfast Giants suffered a horrendous 8-0 bow out at the hands of Sheffield Steelers; a rout that saw them cough up three short handed strikes.
The result capped a dire weekend for the Irish side as they also went down 4-2 in Nottingham Panthers whose new signing Luke Pither was quick off the mark with the opening goal.
Steelers were just as wasteful when it came to chasing points as the men in orange crashed to a surprise 5-2 defeat at the hands of lowly MK Lightning
That marked a winning debut for Lightning’s new netminder, Jindrich Pacl who was hastily brought into the fold on Friday after starting goalie Miika Wiikman was ruled outwith concussion.
He logged 13 saves in the opening period to lay the foundations for a much-needed win for the league newcomers.
Lightning couldn’t make it a four-point weekend, however, as they let slip a promising lead to go down 3-2 at the hands of Guildford Flames.
Guildford also underlined their taste for playing north of the Border with a sixth win in eight visits this season, this time gunning down Edinburgh Capitals on a 4-2 scoreline.
Caps also went down to defeat at the hands of a resurgent Dundee Stars side now making a genuine push for a play-off spot.
Caps were beaten 6-3 and now trail second bottom Milton Keynes by a massive 20 points. They are also some 27 points adrift of a play-off spot, rendering their season pretty meaningless from now on in.
In playing for pride, they’ll claim the occasional scalp, but this disastrous season cannot end quickly enough for Edinburgh.
For Stars, however, things are looking good.
They filled their rink for the visit of Fife – a match they won in overtime – and Omar Pacha’s team are stacking up the wins as they step up the pressure on Braehead in the race for the eighth qualifying berth, and Clan are far from certain of holding on.
They split the points with Manchester Storm in their weekend double header, but have yet to find any real con consistency this season, much to the frustration of the Purple Army.
Robbie Lepine netted the winner in a 4-3 victory on home ice, but Clan were then beaten 5-2 in Altrincham.
This weekend could be a watershed moment for some teams.
Cardiff and Belfast lock horns in a key title match, while, at the other end, Caps face both Dundee and MK Lightning.
Sheffield and Nottingham renew their rivalries, but the big league and conference double header is surely Fife Flyers and Braehead Clan.
Expect full houses in Renfrew and Kirkcaldy, and some red hot hockey!