It’s no secret that coming into this years Champions Hockey League, the Cardiff Devils had a tough test ahead of them.
They had a back-to-back SHL and NLA champion in their group with the Växjö Lakers and SC Bern, as well as the back-to-back EBEL runners up with Red Bull Salzburg, who had won the league three times in the years before their consecutive second place finishes.
If you thought last years group of the Lakers, Bili Tygri Liberec and HC Davos, this was a step up.
Add in the fact that thanks to the success of the Devils, and most notably the Nottingham Panthers in last years tournament, EIHL teams aren’t taken lightly in this competition anymore.
While Cardiff have one more chance at getting a win before bowing out of the tournament next week, the rest of the group is all but set.
Thanks to Red Bull Salzburg and SC Bern going to overtime on gameday five, the extra point for Salzburg was enough to seal the fate of the Växjö Lakers who crash out in the group stage for the first, and just months after they appeared in the CHL final back in February.
Now with just one game day remaining, Salzburg will host Bern next Wednesday to try and decide who tops the group, while the Devils and Lakers will meet at Ice Arena Wales next Tuesday to try and earn some pride before continuing on their domestic campaigns.
Despite failing to pick up a win so far in the CHL, the Devils have had a great tournament, never once looking out of place against some of the toughest teams in the tournament, and more than holding their own, playing a full 60 minute game in each of their four games so far, even forcing overtime at home against SC Bern.
Now coming in against Växjö, they have a big opportunity to get a win. The Lakers haven’t had the greatest year so far, currently sitting 9th in the 14 team SHL, and it’s no secret they’re missing Elias Pettersson from their roster, although I’m sure Vancouver Canucks fans couldn’t care one bit as the young Swedish sensation is enjoying a great start to his NHL career.
Goaltending hasn’t been great for the Lakers either, both Viktor Fasth and Viktor Andren have had early season struggles, and with the Devils having a great offense, led by Joey Martin, Matt Pope and Mike Hedden, they could look to capitalise on that at Ice Arena Wales next week, with the home crowd there to cheer them on in their final CHL appearance of the year.
But with the Lakers and Devils unable to change their positioning in Group G, all eyes will be in Austria on Wednesday night to see who out of Salzburg and Bern manage to get that top spot.
With each team only having one game left to play in the entire tournament, there are only five spots left in the next round, so it should make for an interesting end to the group stage, before the round of sixteen begins on November 6th.
Featured image – CardiffDevils.com