It’s now or never for the Cardiff Devils, after a promising Champions Hockey League campaign last year where they managed to rack up home wins against HC Davos and the Växjö Lakers, they find themselves coming into the final group game still searching for their first win.
You’d be forgiven for thinking, they’ve done it before they can do it again and I wouldn’t tell you that you’re wrong. They’ve beaten Växjö, and they can again. They couldn’t quite manage it last week in the Vida Arena in the away leg of this tie, but a 3 – 1 loss against one of the best teams in not just Sweden but all of Europe is an incredible achievement.
But what do the Devils need to do to get their win on Tuesday night when the Lakers come to Ice Arena Wales?
It won’t be an easy game. Yes, both teams are out of contention to progress any further in the competition but that will probably only put a fire under the belly of Växjö more. They were in the CHL final in February and now not even getting to the next round only months later. They’re not having a great start to their SHL campaign, down in ninth place after dominating the league for the past two-seasons.
And not to mention, they were slammed in local media for getting not just beaten by the Devils in their last visit to Ice Arena Wales, they were destroyed 5 – 1.
So how do the Devils do it again?
One of the best abilities is reliability, and you have that in Ben Bowns. He’s been in the form of his life recently, pulling of daylight robbery on some the saves he’s made, as well just being one of the best players on the team once again. Last Tuesday he stopped 32 of the 35 shots he faced on a difficult road trip, so at home with the home fans behind him, who’s to say he doesn’t raise the level even higher. He managed it last year.
The Devils 5 – 1 win didn’t come from a Växjö team that underestimated them, they gave Bowns a heck of a workout and he was more than up to the task. While the other goal light was getting a lot of use, Bowns stopped 45 shots, only allowing one, and if you count the shots Växjö attempted but were either blocked or went wide, they tried 77 times to beat Bowns and the Devils defence, compared to 36 shots and 21 on goal from Cardiff as Viktor Andren only managed to stop 16 on the night.
When the Devils go forward they look dangerous each time, but they have a great ability at picking the right moments. They’re one of the most opportunistic teams in the league and aren’t afraid to try and move the puck around a little bit to create a better scoring opportunity. But they have to be careful against Växjö to not over handle the puck and spring their quick defense on a rush up ice to create and odd-man situation which could catch them out. If they can play smart, while keeping that creative and opportunistic element of their game they could have success against a tough opponent.
Mike Hedden has been the stand out player in the CHL, and despite all of his European experience, this is his first outing in the tournament. He’s up their for the most goals in the tournament and if he can grab another like he did last Tuesday, with his line chipping in that would only increase the Devils chances of giving their home crowd what they want.
After the success of Cardiff and especially Nottingham last year, no European team will take an EIHL side lightly in this tournament anymore, so despite the fact that there is no prize for the winner of this game, you can expect Växjö coach Sam Hallam will be sending his team out to make a statement, especially after there unravelling here last year.
Featured image: CardiffDevils.com