The bumpy road to a fifth straight Challenge Cup final

Not all roads to your destination are smooth, trust me, I’ve driven (well had driving lessons) in the UK, I know all about bumpy roads.

The Cardiff Devils may have had a somewhat smooth ride of things over the past two years, but they’ll have a big test Friday night when they welcome the Glasgow Clan to the Viola Arena in the second leg of their Challenge Cup quarter-final.

After carrying a 3 – 0 lead in the first leg, the Devils saw that lead evaporate as Zack Fitzgerald cut into the lead, and despite Matt Pope reopening the three goal advantage, the Clan managed to make things interesting with goals from Brendan Connolly and Vaclav Stupka made it a 4 – 3 contest with just 60 minutes of regulation left to play this week.

Since the 2014/15 season, the Cardiff Devils have appeared in all Challenge Cup finals, and that year was their first trophy under their new ownership group, and the first of many trophies won by then first-year Head Coach Andrew Lord.

In that spell of four consecutive finals appearances, they’ve won two, and lost two, with both of their wins coming over the Sheffield Steelers, and their losses coming to the Nottingham Panthers and the Belfast Giants last year, but if you believe in patterns, they’ve won the Cup in alternate years since that first win, so this could be their year (again).

Now the Devils carry a one goal lead with 60 minutes of regulation separating them from the semi-finals. The Belfast Giants are through, the Nottingham Panthers are through, the Cardiff Devils could be next, but Glasgow won’t go down without a fight.

The Devils faced adversity in the quarter finals last year, they were tied at three with the Guildford Flames after the first leg last year, and then there was that comeback in the semis, so they’ve shown they’ve got the stomach for these situations. But the Clan and their fan base are an insanely proud organisation.

The last time Glasgow came to Cardiff they may as well have not bothered. They didn’t lose, they were demolished 8 – 1, tell me that’s not on their mind coming into the Viola Arena on Friday night. It might not be a league game, two points aren’t on the line, but a chance at advancing is on the line for a team that’s fighting for a playoff spot right now.

They play with a physical edge that can wear you down. Say what you will of Zack Fitzgerald but he’s cast in the script of a hockey season for a reason and he performs his role in what would be deserving of a hockey Oscar nomination. When he’s on the ice you notice him, and that’s why he’s there.

And they have Josh Gratton…what?…oh never mind.

They have a great playmaker in Matt Beca who’s had back-to-back 75 point campaigns in the league and will be the key danger man on Friday night.

Glasgow play with pride and passion, and they’ll want to leave Cardiff after the second leg with their heads held high unlike their previous trip. They’ll be right up for this, it’s up to the Devils to match that intensity.

For the Devils, It’s rude to host a party and not even show up, and on March 10th 2019 they are hosting the Challenge Cup final at the Viola Arena, they’ll want to be there for a fifth straight year, matching the record set by the Nottingham Panthers, the only difference being the Panthers won all five of them.

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