Riley on for Challenge Cup treble bid

Blair Riley is out for a third straight Challenge Cup this weekend (PHOTO: Dave Williams)

Cardiff Devils forward Blair Riley has perhaps more reason to be excited about Sunday’s Challenge Cup Final as anyone.

Having won the competition in the last two season as captain of Belfast Giants, he’s closing in on a third consecutive success, with Aaron Fox’s Sheffield Steelers standing in the way.

And he says the fact the Devils are even there in a campaign that has been one of the most competitive in Elite League history is something to be pleased about.

“The way the league has been this season, where it’s been super competitive and so much parity throughout, just getting to the final is a big accomplishment and we’re under pressure to win in Cardiff,” Riley said.

“It’s an organisation that wants to win every trophy and just competing isn’t enough.  We took some bumps as a team in the early stages, but we’ve come on and feels like we’ve been on a great run.

Blair Riley won the Challenge Cup twice in Cardiff as Belfast Giants captain before moving to the Welsh capital last summer (PHOTO: Helen Brabon)

“To win it a third time would be special and with a new group, it would be something I would be proud of.

“In the time I’ve played in the Elite League over the course of the last few years, it’s a tournament I’ve come to enjoy and the two-leg format coming down to aggregate scores is an interesting way to approach a hockey game.

“It’s like a 120-minute game and it’s treated me well in the last couple of years, having won it twice with Belfast and I’m hopeful of a third for Cardiff this weekend on home ice.

“They were two very memorable moments in my career and will definitely stand out when I’m done playing.  You think about those moments from time to time and things will pop up on social media that refreshes memories so it’s an exciting time.”

Riley is all too familiar with the threat the Sheffield Steelers carry as they look to end their own drought in the competition, having not won it since 2003 and having never lifted it in triumph in the Elite League era.

Blair got his hands on the Spengler Cup with Team Canada at New Year (PHOTO: Tatiana Gonzalez)

And he revealed what his team will focus on as they look to win it for a third time in six years and expects a big atmosphere at the Viola Arena.

He added: “Steelers have been top of the league for most of the season.  They play with a lot of pace and have a lot of high end offensive skill and almost in the blink of an eye, can hang up four or five goals on just about anyone.

“We’ve seen them pick up some big scorelines in the past and we’ll focus on discipline and limiting their offensive chances and odd man rushes.

“If we can do that and let our experience take over, we like our chances.  We’re playing our best hockey of the year as the title race heats up and we’re excited for it.

“The atmosphere is going to be vibrant and there’ll be a lot of fans there, so it should be a great environment for a championship game.”

LISTEN NOW: Blair Riley was a guest on this week’s British Ice Hockey podcast.  Check out the full interview here

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