CARDIFF DEVILS | SPORT PREVIEW
The Cardiff Devils are gearing up for an action-packed February, with a total of 11 games crammed into four weeks. The Devils must prepare for nine Elite Ice Hockey League matches alongside two crucial Challenge Cup fixtures. At the time of writing, the Cardiff boys top the table with an impressive 51 points, but they cannot afford to rest easy as the Belfast Giants are hot on their tails just a point behind.
Title hopes rest on February: a strong performance throughout the coming month is going to be imperative if the Devils wish to consolidate their place at the top. Wed 1 Feb will play host to a critical showdown where the lads in red will face off against their rivals from Ulster in the Challenge Cup battle. The first leg of the semi-finals will take place at the Ice Arena Wales, with the following match to be played a week later at the Odyssey Arena, the Giants’ home turf. It will be a test of nerve for the two teams; historically, however, the odds are in the Devils’ favour, with two Challenge Cup titles to the Giants’ one.
Cup aside, the Devils must be ready for a hard-fought League campaign next month. On Sat 4 they come up against the formidable Nottingham Panthers – eight Challenge Cup titles being testimony to the skill of the team. Old scores will be settled, as it was the Panthers who shattered hopes of a Cardiff Cup win last year. Todd Kelman’s men then face off against Manchester Storm, scheduled for Sun 5. Predictions are wasted on this one, with both sides winning an even two of the last four fixtures that saw them head to head.
Sat 11 sees Coventry Blaze pitted against the Welshmen, the Midlanders sitting eighth on the table with a measly 29 points. The remaining fixtures see the Devils play further games against the Giants, Panthers, Coventry Blaze and finally the Edinburgh Capitals. February will be a difficult month but if the Devils fight hard then there is all to play for.
words JOHN BOOTH