by Jacob Chick (@Jacob_Chick)
THE SEASON THAT WAS
Looking back on last season, ultimately the Cardiff Devils fell short of expectations. The Devils were able to produce confident wins throughout the season, but closes losses ultimately saw them miss out on the league title for a third year in a row by regular time wins, to the Belfast Giants.
There were many games during the season we can look back at, where an extra point was up for grabs and we couldn’t find that extra goal or hang on for those extra few seconds.
One game that optimises this was on tin December against Dundee Stars where the Devils had a 2-0 lead heading into the third and ended up losing the game in a shootout. Games at home like this are crucial for the league title and it did cost us.
Looking back to the beginning of the season, the CHL again gave the Devils another chance to progress and heighten their game, learning from their European counterparts. It was clear throughout the season the techniques which the devils had adopted thanks to their experience in the CHL.
Compared to previous seasons, it personally felt as though we did lose a bit of that ‘Devil’s Edge’ we are used to. One of these reasons including the movement of players at the beginning of the season with the likes of Faryna, Blood and Parisi all leaving the team at some point.
Of course, Play-offs were something special. It was a thrilling end to the season as it demonstrated how great the 2018/19 roster for the Cardiff devils was, despite unsettlement. A trophy-less season for sure would have left a sour taste in the mouths of players, coaching staff and fans alike.
Cardiff Devils have brought in five new signings so far and I think the fans are right behind every new face on the team. One thing the signings had to be able to do was slot into our already existing core group, and it looks like they are beginning to do so nicely.
Blair Riley joining from Belfast Giants was a big coup for us from one of our rivals and with a few players needing that out and out goal scorer on their line, Riley fits into this slot perfectly. It has been impressive to watch his dogged work rate to win the puck back high up on the ice.
Masi Marjamaki has been winning fans over from the first time they saw him ice in the open training session. Marjamaki has a big physical presence with great stick work and an eye for goal. Most teams I imagine will hate to come up against him on the ice due to his presence.
Devils have welcomed Sam Jardine who is a new ‘stay at home’ defencemen for the Devils, similar in stature to Ben Blood who we missed after he left for Tappara. Jardine also likes to hit a few slapshots which has caused problems for the goalies we have faced in pre-season.
Another defencemen we have brought in is Sean McMonagle. Once the news came out that we would be without Evan Mosey for the majority of the season, fans were undoubtedly worried as to who we could bring in to replace him. McMonagle fits the bill with his talented movement and stick handling to carry the puck from his own net right the way up to the attacking zone.
Finally, there is Mike McNamee who was fairly unknown and had the least to prove to the fans, but has been a real star so far this pre-season. He has great wheels and has been crucial in a lot of build-up to goals, feeding the puck towards the goal.
Two players to keep an eye on this season will be McNamee and Marjamaki.
Overall, I’m looking forward to the new season, the new signings look to be improvements for the team. We’ve kept a good solid core of players and with the added experience and skill of the players we have brought in, it looks like this season could hold a solid chance for us to win some more silverware.
The Devils are a team who, thanks to their history, are expected to do well every season. In terms of silverware this season the league will definitely be right at the top of the list. It’s going to be even harder this year with the likes of Belfast, Sheffield and Glasgow all strengthening their teams well.
The Challenge Cup is there to be won and it would be fantastic to lift another trophy and push for that illusive Grand Slam that the Belfast Giants came so close to last season.
The playoffs in Nottingham were amazing for the Devils last year and gifted the Devils that all important silverware we desperately wanted. If the support is anything close to what it was like last year, then hopefully the Devils can go for a ‘three-peat’.
The final competition the Devils are in is the Champions Hockey League, expectations for the competition were to be competitive with a very difficult group. However, the Devils currently top a group consisting of Frolunda Indians, Mountfield HK and Graz 99ers. With two games left against reigning champions Frolunda, one point could see us be only the second team to qualify for the next stage from the EIHL.
MY FIRST LINE
There are no surprises in-between the pipes as Ben Bowns will remain our first choice netminder.
The two defencemen who look set to fulfil the first line duties are Gleason Fournier and Mark Richardson.
As for the front three, Sean Bentivoglio will most likely keep his place on the left and will keep that partnership with Joey Martin in the middle. One change will see Blair Riley go straight into the first line replacing Mike Hedden.