For the Cardiff Devils to do what no other EIHL team has done and secure the three-peat, the usual suspects will need to be on top form or better once again.
The likes of Joey Martin, Ben Bowns and Gleason Fournier have all continued their impressive form (especially Fournier), but the play of new arrivals has been just as important.
We could talk at length about the influence the new arrivals line of Mike Hedden, Stephen Dixon and Charles Linglet are having on this Devils unit (and in fact we will because that’s given me an idea for a future article), but one name who joined mid-season has emerged as one of the most important parts of the team going forward.
On November 19th, the Devils announced the arrival of Drew Schiestel to bolster their defence following the loss of Andrew Hotham from last year, and with the U-Turn of Tom Parisi and Ben Blood departing for a two-year deal in Finland. Since joining, he’s added stability to the blue-line, that has really settled things down for Andrew Lord’s side.
As you can see by the above graphic, with Schiestel in the line up, it’s allowed Lord to keep the same pairings together as often as possible, something he’s also had the luxury to do with his forwards, with the only disruption being Evan Mosey who is being utilised mostly as a forward but can also be put into the defensive unit to give guys a rest of a lengthy penalty kill for example.
Schiestel has put up nine points in 15 games across league and Challenge Cup action, with four goals and five assists.
His time for the Devils got off in the best way possible. A goal in one of his first games, with a strike in overtime against the Manchester Storm back in November to take a 5 – 4 victory, and since then had just grown in confidence, with Andrew Lord trusting him out their in key scenarios with the 31-year-old former AHL All-Star getting minutes on special teams as well as five-on-five.
A big body at 6’1″ and around 200lbs, he’s not shy to finish his hits to devastating effect, but his ability to pick his moments and recognise when it could lead to an odd man rush situation means he’s become of the smartest blueliners in the league. He’s very active with his stick and has a good reach on it too which means he’s quick to loose pucks, and even if he’s not able to keep up with some of the quicker wingers around the league, he’s not out of the play until he says he is, quite often using his stick to force the man out wide and able to poke the puck away, or go for a stick lift to at least momentarily stop the flow of the guy trying to get around him.
With a player of his size so active physically in net front battles and active with his stick, you might expect him to spend a considerable length of time getting to know the penalty box attendant, but Schiestel has only spent two minutes in the box so far, and through his career hasn’t been one to rack up too many PIMs.
If Schiestel can keep up these types of performances, it’ll go a long way in helping the Devils to some silverware, and with them out of contention for the Challenge Cup, they’ll be putting all their efforts into the league campaign now, so another league title could be on the cards.
Featured Image – CardiffDevils.com