This weekend is make or break for the Cardiff Devils.
After a tough start to the season, outlined in my last piece, the Devils finally seemed to wake up a bit, improving and beginning to play like champions again. A fortnight ago they played the game of their season, when they shut out the Giants, in Belfast.
After that result, they were six wins from six and began to climb back up the Elite League table. But, as quickly as their fortunes took an up-turn, they crumbled.
Three losses on the bounce. 18 goals conceded. Seven of those on the penalty kill. The capitulation in the second half of the Fife game personified the Devils’ season. They were shaken and BANG, a 5-1 score was turned into a 6-8 loss.
Now, I’ve been through the Devils’ problems with consistency already (article here), so I won’t go there. But I will say this, they need their big players and characters to step up, and to take control.
Andrew Hotham, Joey Martin, and Jake Morrisette need to lead by example and show themselves to be the champions they are. Both Hotham and Martin scored three-point games against Fife last week, a repeat of that is needed.
On Saturday the Devils travel to Fife, a place they have already won this season, and need a result. The Devils haven’t lost four games in a row for a long time, this cannot happen now.
Andrew Lord has spoken many times of the team needing to bounce back from bad results and the need for a reaction. Those words are truer than ever this weekend.
If the Devils can bring back two points from Scotland on Saturday, they’ll have the chance to build. If not, then Sunday night will be tough. Belfast are in town, and are coming off the back of a 9-3 win against Manchester last weekend.
In a head to head, Devils are 7-5 in wins over the Giants since the start of the 16/17 season. No team in the Elite League has given the Devils more trouble especially at home, since then.
The Devils must win this game. No argument.
For me, this weekend will decide whether the Devils will be able to mount a title fight. If they don’t take at least three points, then for me it’s going to be near impossible.
However, if the Devils can dig deep, grind out two strong, solid performances, then there’s hope.
Fortunately for the Devils, their two best players are beginning to fire on all cylinders, and many are starting to follow. But every single Devil will need to perform from here on out.
The loss of Craig Moore, who is out until the new year, is a big blow, but Toms Rutkis has been called up and now has his chance.
This is a huge opportunity for the Devils to show what they’re made of. I can only hope they do. The Elite League needs a good title fight this year, and the Devils should be a part of that.
Photo Header – Helen Brabon