Road to the Challenge Cup Final 2020: Cardiff Devils

It's a fifth Challenge Cup Final in six years for the Cardiff Devils (PHOTO: Panthers Images)

It’s a fifth appearance in this final in six years as Cardiff Devils get ready to take on Sheffield Steelers, looking for their fourth success in the Elite League era.

So let’s see how Andrew Lord’s men managed to find their way to showpiece game against their big rivals for the first silverware of the season.

Group B Game 1 (14 Sep 19) vs Guildford Flames (h) W 5-3

Cardiff’s first taste of Challenge Cup action was to come up against the finalists from last season and wasted no time in making their mark with three goals in the first 10 minutes. 

Charles Linglet and two from Stephen Dixon – the latter on the powerplay – gave them the perfect start with Guildford hitting back through Calle Ackered and Ian Watters either side of the first break.

Devils lengthened their lead through Joey Haddad shortly after then Masi Marjamaki with nine minutes to go to seal the win.  Watters notched his second, but the first two points were already on the board.

Group B Game 2 (19 Sep 19) vs Guildford Flames (a) W 4-3 (OT)

There was only five days before the two teams met again in a rematch at The Spectrum and once again, it was the perfect start as Stephen Dixon rifled in from the right side face off circle. 

Guildford hit back three times in the second period as John Dunbar, Calle Ackered and Corbin Baldwin all found the target, but Charles Linglet hit back on the powerplay to close the deficit. 

Sam Jardine equalised with a lengthy strike in the third period and there, the game remained deadlocked until Gleason Fournier smashed in an overtime winner and claim the extra point.

Group B Game 3 (22 Sep 19) vs Coventry Blaze (a) L 1-5

Cardiff’s next date in the cup was a trip to Coventry to take on the Blaze in their first meeting of the campaign and it was Danny Stewart’s men who were celebrating at the end.

Justin Hamonic and Evan Bloodoff gave the Blaze a two-goal lead in the first period before former Devil Drew Schiestel and Andrew Johnston added two more in the second.

Sean Bentivoglio hit back on the powerplay in the final period, but it was a mere consolation as Alex Forbes notched Coventry’s fifth to seal a miserable night for Cardiff.

Group B Game 4 (28 Sep 19) vs Coventry Blaze (h) W 5-1

Both teams met again six days later and it was the same scoreline, but this time it was Cardiff Devils who were smiling as they took their revenge against the Blaze.

David Broll opened the scoring on the powerplay, but it was cancelled out by Joey Martin shortly after as Cardiff took advantage of having a man advantage.

Andrew Lord’s side kicked on with three goals in 62 seconds as Gleason Fournier, Bryce Reddick and Matt Pope all hit the target.  Stephen Dixon got the fifth later on to complete the result.

Group B Game 5 (06 Oct 19) vs Coventry Blaze (a) L 1-3

A return to the Skydome didn’t yield a favourable result for Cardiff when they returned to start the second round of games in this group as Coventry were triumphant again with a 3-1 result.

Joey Martin struck first three minutes into the second period with a snipe from the slot to give them the lead, but Coventry left it late to turn things around.

Janne Laakkonen levelled from just outside the crease, setting up a tense finale with Charles Corcoran taking the game winner in the last minute, supplemented by an empty netter from Justin Hamonic.

Group B Game 6 (26 Oct 19) vs Guildford Flames (a) L 1-2

The Challenge Cup group was looking more and more difficult for Cardiff as they suffered their third defeat in four when they travelled to the Spectrum to face Guildford Flames on the road for a second time.

Jamie Crooks put the Flames in front after six minutes as they looked to help their own cup aspirations, but it was level by the end of the period as Mike McNamee scored on the powerplay.

Guildford restored their lead through Owen Griffiths on 36 minutes, but the Devils couldn’t find a way through and were left to rue another loss.

Group B Game 7 (27 Oct 19) vs Guildford Flames (h) L 3-4 SO

Both sides met again at the Viola Arena the next night and while there was a point on the board for Cardiff, it was another loss in a tough Challenge Cup section as Guildford Flames won again.

Ian Watters put Paul Dixon’s men in front, but the Devils turned it around in the second period as Joey Martin, Sean McMonagle and Matias Sointu put them 3-1 up.

Flames clawed it back through Watters, with his second and Cam Braes and it needed TJ Foster to come up with what proved to be the winning penalty shot for Flames to clinch the extra point.

Group B Game 8 (30 Oct 19) vs Coventry Blaze (h) W 5-4 SO

A testing group phase ended for Cardiff with victory, but they had to scrap it out as they came from a losing position to take a shootout win over Coventry and confirm their place in the knockout stages.

Blaze went 3-0 up through Evan Bloodoff, Andrew Johnston and Matt Pohlkamp, but were pegged back through Joey Haddad, Mike McNamee and Bryce Reddick before Luke Ferrara added a fourth.

Stephen Dixon netted to take the game beyond regulation time, with Sean McMonagle scoring the important penalty shots winner to seal Cardiff’s quarter final spot.

Quarter Final First Leg (11 Dec 19) vs Belfast Giants (a) W 1-0

The knockout stages began as the top two teams and play-off finalists from last season were paired together in the last eight and one of these heavyweights would see their Challenge Cup run end early.

Belfast were the holders and it was a hard fought game that yielded very little as both teams laid it on the line in this single goal thriller.

It was ultimately decided by a Joey Martin strike from the blue line that beat Shane Owen after 14 minutes and set up a tasty second leg in Wales.

Quarter Final Second Leg (18 Dec 19) vs Belfast Giants (h) W 4-0 

(Cardiff win 5-0 on aggregate)

The second leg saw the end of Belfast’s reign as two-time Challenge Cup holders as Cardiff swept the Giants away, shutting them out for the second time in the tie and taking their place in the semi-final.

Dixon’s opening goal after almost nine minutes on the powerplay set the tone, with Sam Duggan adding a second a few minutes later to make life really difficult for Adam Keefe’s side.

A shorthanded finish from Joey Martin early in the second seemed to be decisive with Josh Batch making it 4-0 and completing the task with a 5-0 aggregate scoreline to knock out the holders.

Semi Final First Leg (22 Jan 20) vs Nottingham Panthers (h) D 5-5 

It was goals galore as Cardiff and Nottingham Panthers met in the semi final to share ten goals in a thriller where this was just the opening chapter.

Joey Haddad got the only goal of the first period, but Panthers swept into a 3-1 lead thanks to Ollie Betteridge, Jake Hansen and Brett Perlini.

Masi Marjamkai and Joey Martin made it three apiece, with Betteridge restoring Nottingham’s slender lead before Blair Riley and Matt Pope made it 5-4, until Jullian Talbot’s late goal ended the game on level terms.

Semi Final Second Leg (29 Jan 20) vs Nottingham Panthers (h) W 4-3

(Cardiff win 9-8 on aggregate)

It was winner takes all as the Devils and Panthers met again to decide who would reach the final and it was a dramatic affair that kept everyone on the edge of their seats.

Brett Bulmer’s double got Panthers off to a good start and although Devils hit back through Haddad, Ryan Horvat extended the Nottingham lead to jeopardise Cardiff’s Challenge Cup hopes.

However, a barnstorming third period display saw them turn it around as Haddad got his second and Joey Martin level the tie at 8-8 before Matt Pope completed the job with the winning goal.

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