After a summer of departures, arrivals, and returns, the Bodean's Cup kicked off with a rematch of last season's final between Devils North and Devils South.
With the season already slightly late getting underway, another setback conspired to delay it further when the scheduled referee cancelled at the last minute. Thankfully, East-West captain Bob Chebator stepped forward to don the stripes. However, there were no stripes on offer and a slim-fit black lycra number would have to do.
It was the North who would start strongest as South’s new goalie James Tipple picked up where he left off in his previous game against the Statesmen with a couple of big early saves.
The former Chelmsford Chieftain stopper was unable to do anything about the opening goal however as James Mulligan latched on to a stray pass inside the blue line and saw his shot rebound perfectly off the glass to the waiting Lukasz Gryzbon in front of goal to poke home.
South Captain Paul House almost hit back straight away as he appeared to have North goalie George Alley beaten, but could only watch as his shot hit the post and was eventually gathered by the sprawling netminder.
A powerplay for the South continued the momentum as Corey Johnson was sent to the box for interference. It certainly wasn’t a textbook PP effort that followed, however - unless of course the copy is named “How to run an ineffective and joyless powerplay in East London”
The final clear cut chance of the first period fell to Mulligan, who latched on to a long pass from his own end to skate through alone on Tipple before firing high and wide.
At the beginning of the second period, Nate Bowman boarded Phil Holbrook to hand the North a powerplay. From the draw, Harry Grant pulled the puck back nicely to Dan Maze whose slapshot struck a South stick mid-air and flew past an unlucky Tipple for 2-0.
The South needed a reaction and it soon came. A dump by the North was played out by Tipple to Dave Carr who teed up Patrice Kerner for a skate through the neutral zone and a lay off to Gennadi Yufit.
The South winger skated hard down the right wing then cut in before using the defenseman as a partial screen and finding a gap at the near post past Alley.
With the teams only separated by one goal, the third period started with a little more zest.
Extensive pressure by the North saw the South begin to tire and Tipple was being forced into making more and more saves. The tide was eventually too much as a loose puck from a Mulligan shot popped out to Big Kev Leizer. With the goal at his mercy and he converted to restore the two goal cushion.
The game would be put to bed soon thereafter, when Mad Dog Malacarne and Holbrook buzzed around down low before feeding the puck to Harry Grant alone in the slot to score a one-timer.
Any thoughts that the South had of getting back into it were dashed a few minutes later as Patrice Kerner hit the post from close range. The game ended with a 4-1 win to the North, and Chebator likely wishing he put plasters on to avoid the dreaded nipple rub from his lycra top.
“We always knew that starting the season with a rematch of last year's final was gonna be tough” admitted North Captain Frank Walshe.
“We wanted to start strong and impose our game plan. Things weren’t perfect but we will hope to get better with each game.”
From a South perspective, blueliner Brooks was refreshingly honest in his assessment of the game.
“Our goalie kept us in the game to be honest” admitted the moustachioed Millwall fan.
“We didn’t have any jump and we didn’t get the pucks in deep so it wasn’t a performance we are satisfied with.”
The next game in the Bodean's Cup will take place next week as the North look to make it back to back wins in their game against a much-changed Devils East-West side.
Devis North: Scoring
Lukas Gryzbon (J. Mulligan)
Dan Maze (H. Grant)
Kevin Leizer (J. Mulligan)
Harry Grant (G. Malacarne, P. Holbrook)
Devils South: Penalties
C. Johnson – Interference
C. Johnson – Holding
K. Leizer – Boarding
Devis South: Scoring
Yufit (P.Kerner, D.Carr)
Devils South: Penalties
N. Bowman – Holding
The Devils kicked off the 2019/20 season with a hard fought 3-0 win against Westminster Statesmen at the Valley.
The pre-game chatter was dominated by probing questions on the Devils weekend tour of Hamburg, with Harry “The Seagull” Grant and Misha Neizvestnov remaining tight-lipped on their teammate’s antics. Perhaps they could sense an undercover reporter in attendance or maybe it was really dull? Who knows?
With the silk pawed Eugene Gorelik delayed due to traffic, both teams skated out on to the freshest of fresh ice thanks to the new Lee Valley “Ice Wolf Zamboni”. The gleaming yellow machine managing to achieve the rare combination in a British ice rink of looking the part and delivering the goods. Unlike the revolutionary sensory touch showers of course.
The game began with the Devils weathering early pressure from the Statesmen forwards, who tested James Tipple on multiple occasions between the pipes. The 27 year old Devils newcomer made a number of key saves, as the Devils struggled to counter their opponents' energy and work rate.
An early powerplay gave the Devils time to settle, after Tipple was lucky not to be seriously hurt thanks to a high stick that grazed his throat. The resulting powerplay came to nothing and soon it was the shorthanded unit called into action as Kevin Leizer laid the smack down in front of the net and earned himself a 2 minute minor.
After around 18 minutes of largely dismal hockey from a lacklustre Devils side, one player grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck. Step forward Dan Maze, the evergreen utility man, who steamed down the right wing past his marker and laid the puck perfectly across to Mike Fox-Higgins to slot home for 1-0.
The Devils took their undeserved lead into the second period, but started to play better from the restart.
The upturn in effort from the Devils coincided with a higher number of penalties however, as both teams gave their special teams plenty of practice.
With Tipple stopping absolutely everything, including a one on one and a number open shots from the slot, the Devils counter attacked and carved out enough opportunities to extend their lead, but the second period ended with no further goals.
The final twenty would be tense.
A rousing team talk delivered by Fox-Higgins sparked a much better final third from the Devils. He immediately led from the front and pinged the crossbar.
A well-executed powerplay doubled the Devils advantage five minutes later as The Seagull and Misha combined well down low, before finding James Mulligan free in front of net to stab home for 2-0.
The goal was a momentum shifter and the hosts began to enjoy their best period of hockey of the night, as Gennadi Yufit and Maze again put pressure on the Statesmen rear-guard and forced their goalie into a couple of saves.
With eight minutes to go, Mulligan grabbed his second goal and the Devils third as he took advantage of a deflection off a defenseman’s shin pad, before skating into the slot with the puck and picking his spot with composure.
The 3-0 scoreline sucked the wind out of the Statesmen’s sails, but there was still time for another Tipple masterclass, as the Brit completed an impressive evening’s performance with a Hasek roll to deny a Statesmen attack at the end.
The buzzer went on what could be best described as a gritty road performance by the Devils, despite technically being on home ice. Such was the mixed emotion in the end of game handshakes, old school blueliner Jon Foster was forced to request everyone “stop hugging and get on with it".
Any time saved by fist pumps over hugs was soon lost as a man appeared on the ice with a camera phone to snap a team shot for Tipple’s Instagram. The Devils were back…. and the 'gram will no doubt light up as a result.
London Devils: Scoring
Mike Fox-Higgins (D. Maze)
James Mulligan (M. Neizvestnov, H. Grant)
James Mulligan (unassisted)
London Devils: Penalties
K. Leizer (2min hi-stick)
J. Mulligan (2min interfere)
J. Alcock (2min hold)
H. Grant (2min trip)
D. Maugile (2min trip)
The Devils' annual summer BBQ was a huge success with veteran blueliner Nathan Bowman and family playing host to over fifty guests. Of course no Devils BBQ could be possible without our amazing sponsor and grillmaster extraordinaire, Andre Blais who provided an unrivalled feast for all. The celebrations went on deep into the night and there were plenty of foggy heads on Sunday to prove it!