WEDNESDAY 7th February 2018. The date of an extraordinary comeback that will be cherished by every Devils fan.
After a first leg defeat in the Challenge Cup semi final to the Sheffield Steelers, Cardiff Devils had to overturn a four goal deficit in the return fixture.
Despite the scale of the challenge ahead of them nobody wrote them off. The atmosphere inside Ice Arena Wales was electric with the thousands of fans being spurred on by the band.
The Devils came flying out of the gate. Matthew Myers backhanded a puck through Ervins Mustukovs after Sean Bentivogilio somehow stripped the puck off the Steelers defender on the powerplay at 6:25.
However the Steelers came straight back with a powerplay goal of their own through Eric Neiley at 7:26. At 10:19, the Devils took the 2-1 lead after a nice tip by Layne Ulmer from a Matt Pope shot for the Devils 2nd powerplay goal of the night to restore the lead.
Matt Pope blasted home another powerplay goal just 31 seconds into the middle period to put the Devils up 3-1. Midway through the period, Justin Faryna put the Devils up 4-1 on the night, which pulled them within a goal of the aggregate scoreline.
You could feel the crowd ready to explode as the Devils pressed for the 5th goal, but it didn’t come, and the Devils trailed by a single goal on the aggregate scoreline after 40 minutes.
Steelers were seemingly sitting back, holding out for the aggregate win. This was a mistake as it was at this point that the Devils went for the kill.
It took less than a minute to pull the Devils even on aggregate as Paul Crowder scored just 45 seconds into the final period.
20 seconds later, Patrick Asselin wrapped the puck around the net to score and put the Devils up by a goal overall and 6-1 on the night.
Then a minute and a half later the Devils powerplay went back to work with Bentivoglio scoring at 42:36 with Morissette and Ulmer setting him up for the goal that put the Devils up 9-7 on the aggregate scoreline (7-1 on the night).
The fans were in hysterics. Three goals in under three minutes and the home side were skating into the final of the cup.
Cardiff Devils head coach Andrew Lord said “I feel good, very very satisfied. Just thankful to be a part of it.
“The crowd was incredible, right off the get-go. We asked for a little more energy and they brought it. It was the loudest night of the year.
“To get back to another final, especially in our rink, is special. Bownsy was huge, made a couple of critical saves.
“You’ve got to love the character on this team, so many veterans, just guys that play for the badge, play for the front of the jersey and you can see how much they care.”
Now the Devils look forward to a final against the Belfast Giants. They are well acquainted with the Devils after playing them twice last weekend.
Lord rates them as a very competitive side “They have speed, they have skill, they are well coached, they play as a team, they play hungry.”
“What a memorable night, probably one of the most memorable nights we’ll be part of in my hockey career and I think even in this organisations history. Hats off to the guys, hats off to the fans, just awesome.”
Man of the match Ben Bowns said of beating his rivals in such spectacular fashion “Tonight was unbelievable.
“There’s that history between myself and Sheffield. Last year we had been battling with them for two years and they beat us both years then obviously last year we managed to get one up on them and reach the Challenge Cup final,
“The semi final is always more nerve racking than the final because you actually want to get there,
“The challenge now is coming off such a massive high like this, to come back down to earth and just playing our normal game back in the league games.”
Next up for the Devils is a trip to MK Lightning on Saturday but in the back of all their heads will be Sunday March 4th, the date of the Challenge Cup final.