Post-Game Quotes: Special Teams Split Cardiff Devils, Guildford Flames in Elite League Playoff

(HC Brodie Dupont) Cole Sandford scored from his knees to give the Cardiff Devils a 2-0 lead over the Guildford Flames in the Elite League Playoff Semi-Finals (Image: James Assinder)
Cole Sandford, Cardiff Devils (Image: James Assinder)

Brodie Dupont’s Cardiff Devils advanced to the 2021-22 Elite League Playoff Final courtesy of a dramatic, 3-2 win over the Guildford Flames on Saturday [30 April] night.

Cardiff scored the only goal of the opening period, taking the lead on 12:45 when Jake Coughler slid the puck beyond Kevin Lindskoug to send the Devils into first intermission with a slender advantage.

With thirty seconds left to play in the second frame, Cole Sandford doubled Cardiff’s lead with an astonishing breakaway strike while sliding on his knees.

Paul Dixon’s Flames fought back in the third period, with a Turner Ripplinger brace tying the content up with 4:32 left to play.

However, a late tripping call against Guildford’s Ian McNulty opened the way for Cardiff to bounce back on the power play. And they did just that.

Justin Crandall scored on the man-advantage with less than three minutes to play to set up a Playoff Final date with the Belfast Giants.

Tension boiled over following the final buzzer, with players from both clubs exchanging pleasantries in the aftermath of a wild, end-to-end contest.

2021-22 Elite League Playoff Semi-Final Media Availability:

Shortly after the final buzzer sounded, British Ice Hockey interviewed Jamal Watson, Mac Carruth, and Ripplinger at ice level.

Jamal Watson: ‘It was fun to play in’

Question: What’s your initial reaction to the game?

“It was a fast game: there was a lot of pace out there and it was fun to play in. We battled back but then it came down to a penalty kill – and they have a good power play, [so] it is what it is. Hats off to Cardiff, they came here to play today and just got in front of us.”

Question: The Flames have shown a lot of character during the 2021-22 Elite League Playoff quarter and semi-finals, coming from behind time and time again. Your guys showed a lot of character again today, right?

Jamal Watson, Guildford Flames (Image: John Uwins) - Elite League Playoff
Jamal Watson, Guildford Flames (Image: John Uwins)

“We’ve been behind six times in these playoffs but always battled back and found a way to get in front. It shows that we won’t give up, no matter what the score is.”

Question: What’s your mindset heading into tomorrow’s third-place playoff, is it important to end the season on a positive note?

You come all this way to Nottingham, you obviously want to finish with a win. It’s important to finish on a high and to take that feeling into the summer.

Mac Carruth: ‘I’ll just take the final one shot at a time’

Question: It was a busy afternoon for you today, you finished with 30 saves. What did you make of the semi-final?

“It was a normal day for us really! We started off a little bit slow and they got a couple of lucky bounces, it was a little pinball machine for us in the third, unfortunately. Our defence and forwards blocked a lot of shots, so it could’ve been a lot more on me. I thought we played well as a unit.”

Question: What’s your mindset heading into tomorrow’s final, how do you prepare for such an important game with this quick turnaround?

Elite League Playoff
Mac Carruth, Cardiff Devils (Image: Hayley Roberts)

“I’ll just take it one shot at a time and the boys will just take it shift by shift, like every other game this season. You don’t know when those big moments are going to come, so it’s important to be focused all the time.

“Obviously, an early night! [I’ll] get to bed early, have a lot of water, and we’ve got masseuses, so we’ll be taken care of properly.”

Turner Ripplinger: ‘We’re going to go in and approach it like every other game’

Question: It was hectic out there today – have you started to digest the match yet?

“That was a game full of ups and downs but we didn’t give up – we found a way to tie it, it was just an unfortunate goal at the end [for Cardiff].”

Question: How are you feeling about tomorrow’s bronze-medal contest?

“We want to win every game we play; we want to win the last game of the season. We’re going to go in and approach [the third-place playoff] like every other game.”

2021-22 Elite League Playoff Semi-Final Press Conference:

After speaking with their players, Dixon and Dupont answered questions from the Elite League’s media pool.

Brodie Dupont: ‘Making sure we’re confident is the most important thing’

Question: Could you give us a brief statement outlining your thoughts on the game?

“It was very back and forth, the kind of game that is stressful to coach, and I thought Guildford took it to us for a lot of the game. We needed some key saves from our goalie at big moments and he did a good job of holding us in the game.

“We got key goals at key moments of the game: even if we were on our heels, we seemed to get a goal when we needed it. Our power play, which we’ve relied on all year, came through again for us at the end of the game.”

Question: You’re still relatively new behind the bench, what did you say to your players when Guildford tied the game at 2-2?

“It was more about staying calm for the guys. We’d addressed a couple of things during the period: Guildford had taken the game to us with speed and turnovers were causing us issues. The important thing was just to take a big breath, stay in the moment, and not think of anything in the past because you can’t fix that.

“Like I said, Mac [Carruth] had to make a few big saves but we did a decent job of protecting the house – and that was the message.”

Question: You lost to the Giants in the Challenge Cup final, does tomorrow’s Playoff Final give you a shot at revenge?

“It’s on our minds: we know what happened in the Challenge Cup and it’s always a good game against Belfast. We’re just digesting this game first and looking forward to tomorrow. It is on our minds, and it would be nice to get back in there and win.”

Question: How important were your special team units tonight?

“Our special teams have been really good all year. I told the guys the [penalty] kill was huge for us in really big moments, like when they pulled their goalie and we were down six-v-four. I thought we got some really big blocks on the kill: our special teams were huge.”

Brodie Dupont, Cardiff Devils (Image: James Assinder) - Elite League Playoff
Brodie Dupont, Cardiff Devils (Image: James Assinder)

Question: It was a special goal from Cole Sandford, what did you make of it?

“That whole line has been great for us all year: they can do some special things with the puck. We were pretty happy to see it go in – but he’s got that ability, he’s got that scoring touch.”

Question: How have you found your new role behind the bench?

“It’s been a lot of fun. I anticipated that I would start coaching after I retired from playing, so I’ve always been well prepared. I’ve been preparing for a bunch of years now: just jotting down notes on things I like and don’t like.

“I felt like I had a good idea of how [coaching would work] but I didn’t anticipate the stress level. When [the coaching change] happened, we just asked the guys to be patient with me and told them that I’d do my best to prepare them the best that I know how. They’ve responded really well.”

Question: How will you prepare for tomorrow’s final versus Belfast?

“We’re pretty familiar with them, it’s just a case of watching their game from tonight [because] we already watched a couple of previous matches coming into [Playoff Finals Weekend]. It’s more about us, getting the guys ready to go, and trying to address a couple of things.

“Making sure the guys believe in themselves and that we’re confident and coming in with that swagger that we can beat them is the most important thing.”

Paul Dixon: ‘I couldn’t ask for any more from the guys’

Question: Could you give us a brief statement outlining your thoughts on the game?

“We wanted to get after the game early, we knew Cardiff were slow playing with five defencemen – it’s been a long year. With that in mind, our ethos was about trying to get pucks in deep behind their D and I thought we did a pretty good job of that.

“Carruth made some key saves at important times and, unfortunately for us, we just fell short.

Paul Dixon, Guildford Flames (Image: Scott Wiggins)
Paul Dixon, Guildford Flames (Image: Scott Wiggins)

“During the first five minutes of the second period, both teams were going five-on-one in both directions.  Every game against Cardiff this year has been like that, I think the teams are evenly matched, and play a similar style of hockey. They’ve got a lot of speed up front: that was just a typical Guildford v Cardiff game.”

Question: What did you say to the guys after the game?

“I don’t think there’s anything else we could’ve done tonight besides scoring a power play goal. They left it all out there, just like we did against Nottingham last Sunday. That’s pretty much it. Cardiff’s power play has been deadly all year and that’s the game-winning goal tonight. They go through with their power play and we didn’t capitalise on ours. That’s how it is.

“But I couldn’t ask for any more at five-on-five. I’m proud of the guys that I’ve got in that room: we couldn’t have done anything else differently.”

2021-22 Elite League Playoff Finals Weekend Schedule:

Semi-Finals – Saturday, 30 April 2022:

Belfast Giants 6-0 Dundee Stars, 15:00

Cardiff Devils 3-2 Guildford Flames, 19:00

Finals – Sunday, 1 May 2022:

Guildford Flames v Dundee Stars, 13:00

Belfast Giansts v Cardiff Devils, 17:00

The 2021-22 Playoff Final will be broadcast exclusively on Premier Sports.

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