CARDIFF Devils will face Dundee Stars in the quarter finals of the Challenge Cup after a 5-3 win over Manchester Storm Ice Arena Wales.
The two sides went into the game tied on points in Group B of the Challenge Cup and both were already assured of qualification before they met on Sunday.
Cardiff have a fine record in the Challenge Cup, reaching the final last season and winning it in 2015. Their progress to the quarter finals of this season’s competition mirrors the Devils’ excellent league form.
They currently sit top of the Elite League standings with 23 points, five ahead of nearest rivals Sheffield with 11 wins from 15 matches.
Although they had already secured their place in the next round, the Devils did not treat the game as a dead rubber, knowing that the loser would face a tough tie against Group A table toppers, Belfast Giants, who beat the Devils 3-2 on Saturday.
The home side started well, passing the puck around as Manchester sat in to defend their goal.
But Storm did not hold out for long, with Joey Martin taking advantage of a powerplay to fire the puck over the shoulder of the goalkeeper after four minutes of the game.
The Devils continued to dominate possession, but Manchester were next to get on the scoresheet, Mark Heatley breaking away to score between the legs of goalkeeper Ben Bowns to equalise.
But almost as soon as they had lost the lead, the Devils were back in front. Chris Culligan scoring just 22 seconds after Manchester had levelled the scores.
Cardiff’s dominance increased in the second period, but they failed to extend their advantage after some staunch Manchester defence.
David Brine scored a brilliant breakaway goal to make it 3-1 after 25 minutes, but the Devils squandered numerous chances to extend their lead, failing to take advantage of a double powerplay when Manchester were reduced to four players.
The Devils were punished for their wastefulness five minutes from the end of the second period, when Manchester took advantage of a powerplay of their own to reduce the gap to one goal.
A tense final period loomed, but a Guillaume Doucet goal early in the third period extended the advantage again. It was Doucet’s eighth goal in the last five weeks.
Storm were not done, though, and took advantage of a powerplay once again. Jack Prince reducing the score to 4-3 with nine minutes to go.
But the Devils never looked in danger of losing their advantage and made the game safe when Gleason Fournier fired the puck into the right hand corner with five minutes to go to make the game safe.
Despite the win, player-coach Andrew Lord was keen to see more from his players after a mixed weekend.
Lord said: “It was definitely one of our tougher weekends. We were flat coming out of the gates in Belfast and we were very inconsistent.
“There was some of that tonight as well, some mental lapses, letting guys in behind us. I don’t think I’ve seen that in three years while I’ve been here as a coach.
“In the first period we were extremely cute. Most of our goals came from ice shots from 30 or 40 feet out with a good net front screen. For whatever reason we got a little away from the game plan, which is frustrating, but let’s just get this weekend behind us and start fresh on Tuesday.”
David Brine, who notched a goal and an assist against Manchester was more positive about the win and the professionalism shown, saying: “Any time you step on the ice you want to put in a good performance and you want to win. It’s about keeping good habits, trying to keep forward and build momentum.”
The Devils face two matches over the coming weekend, travelling to Sheffield for a crucial league match against the Steelers on Friday before a home game against Braehead Clan at Ice Arena Wales on Sunday night.