By Alex Briggs
Ice Arena Wales will play host to the Challenge Cup Final on Sunday as the Sheffield Steelers take on the Cardiff Devils in a winner takes all match-up.
A game that may well be overshadowed by the controversial build-up has all the ingredients for a tasty final between two aggressive sides.
Scott Antcliffe, Sheffield Steelers reporter, spoke to Yorkshire Voice about the task ahead for Paul Thompson’s side. He said:” Cardiff are a strong team and their league standing speaks for itself. They have deep roster, and are highly skilled in every position.”
League leaders Cardiff will have Saturday to rest while the Steelers take on Coventry at the Arena in a decision that has annoyed the Sheffield camp.
Elite Ice Hockey League rulings state that a fixture cannot change dates less than four weeks before the game, a vote Sheffield championed to bring in.
Playing in Cardiff means the Devils will have home advantage, something Antcliffe feels may play greatly into their favour.
“Not only are Cardiff playing on their home ice, and have their home comforts like their locker room, but having the day off the day before will certainly be in their favour.” He told Yorkshire-Voice.
Rewind the clock back two years and it was Sheffield who had the home ice advantage when they hosted the Devils in the first one game Challenge Cup final.
It was a game in which Cardiff defied the odds and beat Sheffield by two goals to one. Revenge is on the cards for Thompson’s side, who are looking to claim the first major silverware of the season.
Ben Bowns and Ervins Mustukovs may have a vital say in who comes out with the trophy, with both goalies boating save percentages over.900.
Mathieu Roy currently joint-tops the goalscoring charts with 25 and has been key to Sheffield’s success over recent years.
On the other hand, Joey Martin for the Devils hasn’t quite been the standout player of last year but will still be a key player in such a big game.
Back-to-back champions, Sheffield may have to be content with handing over the title to the Devils who have now formed an impressive lead at the top.
Therefore concentration must now be on the both the cup final and play-offs, whilst still attempting to close the gap on the top spot.
With some Devils players taking it public to announce their hatred for the Sheffield organisation, bad blood may certainly be spilt when face-off arrives.