By Alex Briggs
The Cardiff Devils showed their Championship winning credentials as they came from behind to defeat the Sheffield Steelers in the Challenge Cup final.
Being hosted in the Welsh capital, it was always going to feel like a home game for the Devils, and they took full advantage of home comforts.
Prior to the game, Steelers reporter Scott Antcliffe said: “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.”
A 1,500 strong travelling support from Yorkshire were in full voice prior to face-off as the atmosphere began to build in a sold out Ice Arena Wales.
Sheffield, who suffered a 4-1 defeat to the Coventry Blaze the night before, came out the blocks slow and went behind when Gleason Fournier sniped home after just four minutes.
Conceding early on seemed to spur the Steelers into action and they were level soon after when Robert Dowd picked up on a loose puck and went five hole on Ben Bowns.
A slick passing play totally separated the Devils defence and after finding space out in front, a quality backhand assist from Fitzgerald gave Dowd the easy job of sliding the puck home.
The King of Sheffield Mathieu Roy soon sent the orange faithful into raptures after a well-placed slapshot on the Power play found the back of the Devils goal.
Roy was tremendous all night, leading the Steelers offence through two periods of constant Cardiff bombardment but his efforts were just not enough.
A Mark Louis strike in the second period was the only goal in the twenty minutes that was controlled by Cardiff, but they struggled to add to the score thanks to Ervins Mustukovs in the Sheffield goal.
Sheffield’s Latvian netminder was in solid form making countless saves to keep Cardiff at bay and with the game looking as though it would remain at deadlock, Layne Ulmer found a way.
Relentless pressure on Mustukovs eventually paid dividends and with the Steelers failing to clear their zone Ulmer picked up on a loose puck and went top shelf.
Sheffield had well over ten minutes to find an equalizer, but they’re only real opportunity came when Guillaume Desbiens got in on Bowns shorthanded.
Bowns stayed with the puck and managed to get the merest of touches to deflect it wide of the goal and from there on it was plain sailing.
Cardiff managed the puck and controlled the ice for the time remaining, oozing class in spells and showing all that’s needed to be worthy of winning trophies.
Sheffild Supporter Anthony Crick, was left devastated with the result. ” It’s disappointing having seen the team play so well in the cup all year, but it just wasn’t meant to be unfortunately” He told Yorkshire-Voice.
— Martyn Joseph (@martyn_joseph) March 5, 2017
A well-deserved 3-2 victory for the Devils means with them sitting in top spot and looking comfortable, they may well be collecting a Grand Slam come the playoffs.