Play-Offs: Coventry masterclass crushes Cardiff

EIHL ice hockey finals, NIC Nottingham
EIHL ice hockey finals, NIC Nottingham

They poured through the doors of the NIC in their thousands, all sporting their club colours - enough different hues for Joseph to knock up a quick spare coat.

Hundreds more chatted outside ahead of ice hockey’s play-off finals weekend - the sport’s showcase event, and one eagerly anticipated by fans regardless of whether their team makes it or not.

This year Sheffield, the league champs missed out. The orange army still turned out in force along with Braehead’s purple army, the blue and gold of Coventry and Fife, the black and gold of Nottingham, and the red army from the valleys.

Some came in fancy dress - it wouldn’t be a play-off weekend without a Fred Flintstone queuing for a beer while the cast from the Wizard Of Oz bought programmes - but everyone came on time, keen to soak up every moment of the weekend.

And it was a rousing rendition of the Welsh national anthem that signalled the start of the first semi-final - Cardiff Devils up against holders, Coventry Blaze.

That was virtually the last we heard of the Welsh choir as their huge support sat in stunned silence while their team was ruthlessly bossed by Blaze.

Period one was a masterclass in how to grab a hockey game by the scruff of the neck and never loosen your grip as Blaze went 4-0 up to more or less kill this semi-final in just 16 minutes.

The killer blows were goals two and three just eight seconds apart. There are hockey players who can’t lace their skates in that time.

Brett Robinson made it 2-0 on the powerrplay at 9:54, and, straight from the face-off Cale Tanaka simply skated in on goal and made it three.

Devils called a time out but they were simply unable to find any way of halting the tide as four became five in the second period. It could have been eight or nine.

The personal battles saw some tasty moments - a dig of stick here, and raised glove there - and in every one of them Blaze stood their ground with intent. They did to Cardiff what Cardiff have done to teams all season long.

It was hard to think of a single key save that giant netminder Brian Stewart had to make , while at the other end of the pad, Ben Bowns must have wondered if his defence had got inexplicably detained while wondering the concourse.

The third period was barely four minutes in when Devils went on a powerplay and pulled their netminder for a six on four powerplay - it didn’t work, they had nothing to lose by rolling the dice.

The game ended 6-2 with Devils netting two markers in the dying seconds and break Brian Stewart’s deserved shut out to put a gloss on the score their performance really didn’t merit.

In truth this semi-final was over long, long before the buzzer