Rink round up

Monday, 28th March 2005
Last Wednesday saw the Devils pay their second play-off visit to the House of Steel as Sheffield hosted Cardiff.  A tight fixture which could have gone either way, it ended up going both ways, with Mike Peron putting the home team ahead at the end of the first period only for John Craighead to level the game at the tail end of the third period, each team taking a point from the one-all draw.  Both netminders pulled off excellent performances, with Jason Cugnet and Jayme Platt facing 34 and 33 shots on goal respectively.
Wednesday night also saw Coventry Blaze hosting London Racers in a penalty-packed game which saw coach Paul Thompson banished to the dressing room as a result of a stick-throwing incident during an altercation at the bench early in the first period.  London's Eric Cairns took exception to a penalty call by referee Andy Carson, and despite then receiving a misconduct and his marching orders Cairns chose to pursue the referee and further argue the point, and then to attempt a one-man assault on the Coventry bench.  A huge melee broke out between players on both teams, with Thompson picking up a game misconduct.  Once order was restored, play was restarted.  Ashley Tait had put the Blaze one goal to the good before the fighting broke out, and the lead was extended further by markers from Graham Schlender and Chris McNamara.  Russ Cowley put the Blaze up at four nil early in the second, but then Mark Gouett opened the London scoring.  Player coach Dennis Maxwell found the net late in the second, and the period ended 4-2 to the home team.  Cowley scored his second of the night in the third period, and the game closed out at 5-2 to the Blaze.
Thursday night saw the Devils in action again, this time at home against the Belfast Giants.  A fantastic combination effort early in the first period saw John Craighead feed a pass to Jon Cullen who found the net inside of two minutes of the first period.  The lead was short-lived, with Curtis Huppe drawing level for the Giants, before Vezio Sacratini netted in the eight minute with what transpired to be the game-winning goal. Final score 2-1 to the Devils.
Saturday night's play-off action saw the Belfast Giants playing host to the Cardiff Devils, and ex-Panther John Craighead was quick off the mark to give the Devils the go-ahead goal inside the first minute.  Belfast pulled ranks and knuckled down to first equalise through Jason Bowen halfway through the second period, before ex-Phoenix forward George Awada put the Giants ahead early in the third.  A third goal for the Giants through Fredrik Nasvall seemed to put the game out of reach, but ex-Storm forward Russ Romaniuk pulled one back for the Devils before Craighead netted his second of the night to tie the game, the fixture ending 3-3.  Cardiff lost the services of Jason Becker part way through the game, with Becker ending his night with a trip to hospital after being hit by a slap shot, but overall Coach Dave Whistle was happy with the one point gained:  "That was a great result, the guys really fought hard for it and to get another point on the road is great."
Over in Coventry, the league champions played host to the Nottingham Panthers.  A scoreless first period gave way to a quick marker in the second, with Adam Calder finding the net just after the restart to give the home team the lead. Mikhail Nemirovsky tied the game for the Panthers, and Rhys McWilliam gave the visitors the lead only for Doug Schueller to tie the game up and then Graham Schlender to put the home team ahead going into the second break.  A third period marker from David Clarke tied the game for the Panthers and that was the last of the scoring, the game ending 3-3.
Sunday night at the House of Steel saw Sheffield hosting Belfast in a disappointing game for the Giants, in which ill discipline cost them dearly.  Belfast opened the scoring through Curtis Huppe in the first period only for Mike Peron to equalise in the second.  David Cousineau put the home team ahead just before the end of the second period, giving the Steelers a 2-1 lead going into the second interval.  A short-handed beuaty from Fredrik Nasvall put Belfast back in the game, but a rash of penalties cost the Giants the game as Jeff Christian netted both a powerplay goal and an empty netter to take the game 4-2.  Netminder Jayme Platt picked up an injury early in the second period and was replaced in the match by Davey Lawrence.  Reports today indicate that ex-Phoenixer Platt is unable to take part in the rest of Sheffield's play-off campaign, and the Steelers have drafted in netminder Stevie Lyle as cover.  Beflast player coach Tony Hand ended up taking an early shower towards the end of the game, after being flung out for abuse of an official.
Coventry Blaze became the first team to qualify for the Play-Off Finals weekend with a convincing away win over the London Racers.  Half an hour of play had passed before the initial deadlock was broken, and it was Adam Calder who netted first with a short-handed play.  Ashley Tait gave Coventry a two goal lead before Andre Payette made it three and Dan Carlson made it four.  A late consolation marker for Scott Nichol broke the Blaze's shut-out, but the two points gave Coventry enough of a gap to ensure their spot at the Nottingham Finals. 
Coventry were also in action on Monday night, with a road trip to Nottingham.  After a scoreless first period in which netminders Jodie Lehman and Ladislav Kudrna pulled off some truly heroic saves, the game was broken by Paul Moran in the second period, his shot finding its way through traffic and beating a screened Lehman.  Wade Belak drew the visitors level with a similar shot, his effort slipping past the Hull Stingray goalie Kudrna, covering for the injured Curtis Cruickshank. The third period remained scoreless, and despite play that varied between inspired and confused, neither side was able to take advantage, the game ending one goal apiece.
by Richard Allan