With the Devils still banished to the locker room before games and training at Lee Valley, both Devils South and North players had to share the confined space before their latest clash in the Bodean's Cup.
No tactics or special plays could be discussed for obvious reasons (including the lack of a felt tip pen for the whiteboard) as both squads kept their cards close to their respective chests.
Instead, North Captain Frank Walshe did his best to mute enthusiasm for the game by dropping in chat about the 1998 film Jack Frost, a tearjerker in which Michael Keaton comes back to life as a ghost in the form of a snowman to watch his kid play junior hockey before melting again. Even the sight of a wheelbarrow of Zamboni snow is a tear trigger for anyone who has sat through it.
Once on the ice, Walshe’s reason for quelling the upbeat mood of the unbeaten South players became obvious. The North had only nine skaters.
Spearheaded by the lively Giuseppe ‘Mad Dog’ Malacarne however, the undermanned side came out of the blocks fast, immediately putting South keeper Shane Kemp under pressure.
An admin error had cut Flinner from the South squad earlier in the day, but after checking his emails properly, South skipper Rich Veinot later confirmed the ‘Halifax Hustler’ was in the line-up and was repaid for his improved administration.
Hustling hard, Flinn picked the puck up in the North zone and laid it off to Veinot who fired an unstoppable slapshot past Adam Veg from the half boards to open the scoring.
The South could smell a rout, but they switched off shortly afterwards, allowing Dan Maze to sneak behind on the far blue and pick up a long bomb from Richie ‘Baker Mayfield’ Clark. The long-time Devil stepped into the zone and unleashed his signature clapper from the right wing, which squirmed through Kemp’s five hole to tie things up at 1-1.
The rest of the first period was notable for one thing… icing, and lots of it, as both sides cleared their zones rather than take chances.
If the first period had been even, the second saw the North take control of possession with Walshe, Glen Wool and the constantly rampaging Andy Fairclough going close early on. The South struggled to break out of their zone but finally grabbed a goal as Terry Wong intercepted a stray pass in the neutral zone, wheeled back in down the left wing and dropped the puck back to Mike Fox-Higgins who fired home from just inside the circle through traffic.
It was a lead that would last less than two minutes, as the Devils' Class of '98 combo would strike again. Clark skated from his own end picking up a pass from Maze unopposed before using the defenseman as a screen, and firing a smart wrist shot past Kemp to make it 2-2.
The North were rolling, but then so was South blueliner Andre Blais, as Kev Leizer laid him on the ice and picked up a penalty for cross-checking. Had Kev received a smaller than expected portion of fries at Bodean's over the weekend, or had he too been brought down by the tale of Jack Frost? It didn’t matter because the resultant South powerplay stunk the rink out worse than a signature Blais Bronx cheer.
The powerplay was soon forgotten however, as the South extended their lead to 3-2 thanks to a superb show of composure behind the net by Wong, weighting his pass perfectly to the waiting Todd Donnelly out front who fired home first time into the far corner of the net.
The lead was extended to 4-2 just a few minutes before the end of the period as Fox-Higgins picked up a pass from Nathan Bowman and glided unopposed towards the slot before unleashing a quick snap shot into the top corner of the net.
It was a body blow to the exhausted North who were left to rue their missed chances.
The North needed a goal and pushed forward from the restart. Maze, Malacarne and Walshe provided constant menace up front, while Clark, Jamie Sullivan and Stuart Wroe snuffed out any attacks towards their goal at the back.
The South, for their part, were doing a decent job of soaking up the pressure and attacking on the counter through Gennadi Yufit, Misha Neizvestnov and Ian Williams. Defenseman Mike Brooks and Andre Blais were also sniffing around the crease like customs border dogs and almost got their rewards, but then disaster struck.
With the puck near Zamboni corner, Brooks decided he’d had enough of the French flag hanging from the roof and fired the puck straight at it - and out of the rink, earning himself a penalty for delaying the game.
The North took full advantage of the resultant powerplay as Walshe teed up Clark by the half boards, and his quick cross ice pass found Maze alone at the back post, finishing with a crisp one-timer past Kemp.
It galvanised the tired North who could sense a comeback. Leizer narrowly missed an agonising one-timer in close and it felt like the chance had gone - despite a late roll of the dice pulling Veg for the extra skater.
The South ended up as 4-3 winners on the night, cementing their place at the top and preserving their unbeaten record in the competition.
The teams headed off the ice to enjoy a wheelbarrow of cold beers, only to be joined randomly by East-West talisman Gary Reid. Was he there to spy for Devils East-West or had he simply been for a late night stroll (70 miles from home) on Walthamstow “Dogging Paradise” Marsh just behind the rink? Only he knows the truth.
Devils South: Scoring
Richie Veinot (A.Flinn)
Mike Fox-Higgins (T.Wong, A.Blais)
Todd Donnelly (T.Wong, M. Fox-Higgins)
Mike Fox-Higgins (N.Bowman)
Devil South: Penalties
Mike Brooks – Delaying the game
Devils North: Scoring
Dan Maze (R.Clark)
Richie Clark (D.Maze)
Dan Maze (R.Clark, F.Walshe)
Devils North: Penalties
Kevin Leizer – Cross Checking
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)