With the Christmas countdown well and truly started, the Bodean's Cup match between Devils South and Devils East-West was an early test of commitment for both squads.
The South welcomed back Mike Fox-Higgins to the line-up along with baby-faced stopper Shane Kemp. Contrary to a previous report that alleged Fox-Higgins pulled out at the last minute (fnarr fnarr) in the game against the North, the big Canadian insisted this was fake news so we are happy to put the record straight, and clarify that although he still didn’t show up, but gave notice. Well done Mike.
At the other end of the rink, fresh from a 6-1 thumping from Devils North last week, East-West were delighted to have star sniper Baptiste Frioux back in their line-up after his recent trip to Mexico - looking particularly fresh and tanned.
Dropping the puck in the zebra suit was familiar face Jurijs Solovjovs who was forced to use the clock for first period timings in the absence of the scoreboard working. Straight from the opening draw, East-West went on the attack, camping in the South zone and making sure Kemp saw plenty of early rubber.
Despite the early possession it was the South that opened the scoring against the run of play. Fox-Higgins laid the puck back to Dumas Maguile on the point and he had space to skate into before unleashing a cannon past the Beast.
East-West were boosted by the late arrival of Patrice Kerner and started to dominate again. Chris Huston, Eugene Gorelik and the constant menace Frioux continued to test Kemp before the South suckered them on the break.
This time it was thanks to a pinpoint pass from Andre Blais (he of recent Evening Standard fame) who intercepted an East-West attack and released Terry Wong down the left wing. The recently returned utility man cut behind his marker and rounded the Beast in some style to make it 2-0.
The South had to kill a penalty soon after, as Blais was sent to the bin on a tripping call, however the penalty kill did its job, typified by a sliding block by Mike Brooks to intercept another East-West chance. “That penalty was five minutes long” moaned a gasping South Captain Veinot, as the Lee Valley clock did its usual trick of stalling for two minutes before leaping ahead to the correct time.
The next goal would be key at the start of the second period, and it was East-West who got it. Adam Kutas turned on the jets (as he has done frequently since buying a pair of red shorts) and wheeled 'round the back of the net before picking out Bob Chebator in the slot. The EW Captain buried the puck in the bottom corner past Kemp to reduce the arrears to one and it was game on.
East-West had broken the cling film behind Kemp but they switched off at the back almost from the restart. Richie Veinot latched on to a loose puck and picked out the unmarked Fox-Higgins in the slot. His trademark snapshot found its preferred locale of the top shelf - where his missus keeps the guacamole.
Adam Wood made it 4-1 to the South when his power skating style forecheck lulled the Beast and J-Fo into a false sense of security. Confusion reigned, resulting in an unorthodox goal and a three goal cushion.
East-West kept plugging away, with another man in red shorts, namely Gorelik playing quarterback to the French pair of Frioux and Kerner. In fact if Eugene invested in a white helmet they would look like the French flag from above as a forward line, or a less impressive version of the Red Arrows smoke. In any case, they were causing the South real problems and got their reward as the blue-helmeted Frioux found black-helmeted Gorelik at the back post. Rather than score, he passed the puck behind the stranded Kemp to red-helmeted Kerner on the opposite post to tap in for 2-4. Unselfish, or looking for a Hollywood experience in a tin shack near Leyton? Who knows? (editor's note: the official Devils colours call for black helmets and black shorts. Please make this clear on your letters to Santa this year boys)
East-West piled forward again looking for a third but their over commitment of attackers was to be their undoing as Fox-Higgins found Gordon Malcolm in space in front of net and the South veteran #10 fired past Beast to make it 5-2.
Unbelievably, it was 6-2 before the period was over as Maguile broke up an East-West attack before launching a superb saucer pass down to the far blue line where Paul House was waiting with Wood in support for a 2 on 0. The former Fulham fan skated down on Beast and faked his shot before squaring to Wood who buried it for his second of the night.
On the buzzer East-West took their first penalty of the evening as Frioux’s half-hearted back door on Maguile was spotted by the referee and meant South would start the third on the powerplay.
The resultant extra man advantage would result in possibly one of the worst powerplays seen in the Bodean's Cup. It was so bad that when East-West iced the puck, the ref mistakenly blew for an icing forgetting that they only had four men.
Once back at even strength, East-West gave themselves a lifeline as a Gorelik pass deflected off a South stick and fell kindly to Kerner unmarked at the back post for a simple finish.
For the next ten minutes the South were under siege with all five guys collapsed in round the net defending and East-West dominating possession. Sadly for the away side, Kemp was in great form and was backed by a committed and solid rearguard that cleared the zone at every opportunity.
With five minutes remaining, Carr fired the puck off the glass out of his zone where it landed nicely for Fox-Higgins. The big man burst round his marker and cut back in from behind the net before burying the puck past Beast
It was a simple lesson in sweet, sweet finishing from the big Canadian and his new look beard that is now only eclipsed by the Freddie Mercury tributes from Lukasz and Brooks.
The game ended 7-3 in favour of the South, who now move top of the Cup table. North move into second, and East West yet to win at the foot of the table. The next round of games will take place in January.
Devils South: Scoring
Dumas Maguile (M. Fox-Higgins)
Terry Wong (A. Blais)
Mike Fox-Higgins (R. Veinot, D. Maguile)
Adam Wood (unassisted)
Gordon Malcolm (M. Fox-Higgins)
Adam Wood (P. House, D. Maguile)
Mike Fox-Higgins (D. Carr)
Devils South: Penalties
Andre Blais (2min trip)
Devils East-West: Scoring
Bob Chebator (A. Kutas)
Patrice Kerner (E. Gorelik, B. Frioux)
Patrice Kerner (E. Gorelik, B. Chebator)
Devils East-West: Penalties
B.Frioux (2min check)
Devils North skated out to a big win over an undermanned East-West side on Monday night. The win brings North to 1-1 after their opening day defeat to the South. East-West will face South on Monday. More to follow...
Devils North: Scoring
Lukasz Gryzbon (unassisted)
Jon Alcock (F. Walshe, G. Malacarne)
James Mulligan (G. Wool)
James Hepburn (J. Mulligan)
James Hepburn (R. Clark)
Kevin Leizer (W. Sheloff, L. Gryzbon)
Devils North: Penalties
A. Fairclough (2min delay)
Devils South: Scoring
Gary Reid (E. Gorelik, B. Chebator)
Devils South: Penalties
B. Chebator (2min hook)
After kicking off the season with a win over the London Rangers a fortnight ago, a freshened-up Devils squad followed it up with a 6-3 victory over the Westminster Statesman at Lee Valley.
The two teams skated out in front of a large number of empty seats, possibly due to the massive billboard outside the rink advertising Christmas Trees rather than Monday Night Hockey.
The Devils selection committee had rung the changes for this encounter, selecting three lines of experience, flair, and grit. The Statesmen brought a shorter bench and came ready to play.
The two-man officiating team dropped the puck and within a few minutes Guisseppe "Mad Dog" Malacarne stepped over the blue line and pinged his slap-shot into the far corner of the net to give the hosts the lead. The goal had come against the run of play, and the Devils doubled their lead soon after, as a man with a more subtle reference to his madness, Harry ‘The Seagull’ Grant battled his way into space before wrong-footing the goalie with a quick release.
The Statesmen continued to counter-attack with speed but the Devils defensive core dealt with everything - typified by goalie George Alley who was putting in a strong performance between the pipes.
The Statesmen goalie in contrast was having a bit of tough night. When he was spotted with his mask lifted above his head by the officials mid-play they handed him a 2min penalty. A delay of game (?!?) call gave the Devils a powerplay and Jon Alcock took advantage with a close range finish after a very slow whistle to make it 3-0.
Just before the period buzzer the Statesmen pulled a goal back after the Devils left a man open in the slot, but all in all it was a satisfactory opening period from a Devils perspective.
One person who thought otherwise was one of the officials who skated across to give the teams a lesson on the icing rule. All nodded the way people do when they’ve been on a Speed Awareness course all day and want to get home, but Mike Brooks bucked the trend by respectfully agreeing to disagree. “I know the icing rule buddy” was the final call from the man in the moustache. The official then promised to call a bench penalty on anyone who questioned an icing call. The law had been laid down - these guys weren't there to play games - or indeed to call icings.
The second period was a little scrappy but the Devils were forechecking much better. This extra energy in the offensive zone wasn’t limited to the forwards, with blueline veteran Andre Dr Dre hustling deep inside like a man possessed. Had he fuelled up on a Soho Special pre-game? Perhaps.
The Devils then made it four, when Frank Walshe's chip up to Jon Alcock led to his second of the night with an angled shot from the hash marks.
The rest of the period passed without much incident until Brooks decided to show the officials that he didn’t just know about icing, but also how to snipe a goal by ghosting into the slot, where Alcock found him with a perfect pass. The Statesmen pulled another goal back late on as the Devils defence switched off and allowed a breakaway which was finished smartly past Alley.
At 5-2 the game was almost done as a contest as the third period began. The fat lady was belting out Nessun Dorma straight from face-off as Mad Dog Malacarne danced through two Statesmen players before roofing the puck into the net to make it 6-2.
The Italian Mad Dog had been undercover wearing a Belgian flag on his Devils jersey all evening, so perhaps the Statesmen figured he was a laid back kinda guy who wouldn't mind it if things got a little feisty. They would be wrong.
The muscles not from Brussels did not take kindly to repeated slashing and began to bare his teeth. The result was a wrestling match with the usual Statesman subject. Mad Dog then delivered a message in perfect English that cannot be repeated in a family-friendly match report. Both players were then instructed to have an extended rest.
Things got even more dramatic as the Seagull was accused of wiping out the Statesman goalie but upon reflection the officials decided it had been an accident. It was almost perfect seagull-esque behaviour in that way that they swoop on pensioners and fly off with their bag of chips at the seaside but no one can pin it on them.
The Statesmen were simmering and Walshe did his best to calm things down but when Brooks took a sly butt-end to the ribs, his protestations earned him a spell in the box too.
At this stage the main focus on both sides was to see the game out, but the Statesmen finally got a reward for their efforts as they scored late-on to give a more respectable scoreline of 6-3. It was harsh on Alley who had been solid between the pipes but the Devils could be pleased with a real team effort to secure the win.
Both teams shook hands, drank beer, and will no doubt meet each other again later in the season. -Dave Carr
London Devils: Scoring
Giuseppe Malacarne (M. Brooks)
Harry Grant (unassisted)
Jon Alcock (unassisted)
Jon Alcock (F. Walshe, J. Foster)
Mike Brooks (J. Alcock, A. Blais)
Giuseppe Malacarne (A. Blais)
London Devils: Penalties
M. Brooks (2min trip)
H. Grant (2min hold)
G. Malacarne (4min rough)
G. Malacarne (10min misc)
M. Brooks (2min unsport)