Details of last night's clash have been slow to filter through to Devils HQ. When we have more details, we will let you know. One thing is for sure, Devils EW is on the rise.
With the absence of roving Devils reporter Dave Carr, we cannot promise a match report full of colourful metaphors and clever nicknames. Instead of helping shore up the South defence, Carr was last spotted in Las Vegas sipping his favourite slimming tonic.
Lee Valley Ice Centre hosted the first Devils v Rangers encounter of 2019 as the fierce rivals went head to head in east London.
The Devils handed a competitive debut to blueliner Christian McCracken, but had their forward lines thrown into disarray when star forward Philippe Mueller realised he had left his helmet at Ally Pally on Saturday night.
For a few terrifying minutes, it looked like the Swiss sniper might have to wear a helmet with a half-visor, but his worried expression quickly turned to a smile as the rink boss dug out an old CCM with a cage from the Valley's 1990 equipment archives.
Despite it being a Monday night with some of the Devils still weary from Saturday’s epic Charity Tournament (and the subsequent Highgate celebrations!), both teams started the game at pace.
The Rangers came out hard and put the Devils defence under early pressure. Adam Veg had to make a number of stops on the first shift before a shot from Rangers' left wing #61 deflected off the shaft of a Devils defenseman’s stick into the top corner of the net through traffic.
The Devils responded on the very next shift however as Dave Carr controlled the puck on the point and picked out Baptiste Frioux in front of net unmarked. The Frenchman drew out the goalie and then squared to his countryman Patrice Kerner to slot calmly into the gaping net for 1-1.
The game settled down a bit and the relentless forechecking of Harry Grant caused the Rangers defencemen to cough up the puck under pressure. His energy rubbed off on the rest of the Devils forwards, most notably Giuseppe ‘Mad Dog’ Malacarne, who was now certainly off the leash and causing chaos. After a shift of hustling the Rangers all over their end zone, the Italian tangled with temperamental Rangers winger #79 who proceeded to follow him round the ice cross-checking him multiple times.
The subsequent Devils powerplay saw the Rangers return the early favour with a deflection of their own as the puck come out to Richie Clark on the point. The wily blueliner's wrister was accidentally tipped in and the Devils were on top 2-1.
As the game began to resemble a full-contact match, penalty trouble ensued. James Mulligan may have been lucky not to get called for wiping out the Rangers' defenseman on the point, but then made sure of a spell in the box by hooking the opposite blueliner to the ground later in the same shift. A soft tripping penalty on Frioux followed but Veg and the Devils' shorthanded unit dealt with the dangerous Ranger powerplay well.
Both sides faced the long change for the second period but the Devils kept rolling the lines hard and fast.
Veg was called into a number of early stops as the Devils struggled to pick up their men in the defensive zone. The normally placid Chebator then decided that getting drilled on the boards was not something he was prepared to shrug off and earned a coincidental roughing penalty.
The Devils were struggling to break out of their own zone thanks to the Rangers clogging up the neutral zone with high forwards, but as time ticked on gaps began to appear. The first was spotted by Mueller, who looked like a different person without his much loved Itech shield. His stretch pass released Frioux one on one with the Rangers goalie for a predictable outcome and a 3-1 scoreline.
Five minutes later it was Mueller soaring away on a breakaway of his own. His efforts to control the rolling puck may have failed, but his ability to finish did not. His marker made it 4-1 and gave the Devils a vital three goal cushion.
With time ticking down in the second, the Rangers pulled a goal back as #79 found #61 at the back post. He proceeded to roof the puck past Veg beautifully for a well worked goal to cut the lead to 4-2.
The Devils knew that it was going to take a disciplined third period performance to seal the win and so it proved. A backs to the wall defensive display, held together fantastically by Veg between the pipes and involving all five skaters frustrated the Rangers attack time after time.
At the other end of the ice, Mulligan broke free but saw his five-hole effort saved. Mike Fox-Higgins was later sprung free by a Walshe pass from his knees, but his close range effort was saved.
There was still time for some drama as Mad Dog and #79 clashed again, with the latter penalised for a naughty hit behind the play that knocked the Devils man to the ice. Mad Dog's subsequent gestures earned him a penalty of his own however and there would be no late powerplay for the Devils.
The Devils were hanging on at times now, and a series of icings showed that legs were tiring. A late goal finally arrived in the final two minutes of the game to give the Rangers hope. The ever dangerous #61 completed his hat trick burying the puck into the net past the diving frame of Veg - who had made a spectacular save just prior. It was now 4-3 Devils with the Rangers pushing everything forward.
With the Devils picking up a late delay of game penalty, The Rangers pulled their goalie to create a two man advantage but it was to no avail. It would be the Devils who would take the spoils and start the 2019 series off with the win. -DC
London Devils: Scoring
Patrice Kerner (B. Frioux, D. Carr)
Richie Clark (unassisted)
Baptiste Frioux (P. Mueller)
Philippe Mueller (unassisted)
London Devils: Penalties
Baptiste Frioux (Tripping)
James Mulligan (Hooking)
Bob Chebator (Roughing)
Giuseppe Malacarne (Roughing)
Giuseppe Malacarne (Unsportsmanlike)
Christian McCracken (Delay)
The annual Devils 3-on-3 charity tournament took place at Alexandra Palace on Saturday night, as nine teams battled it out to lift the fabled (and now engraved) trophy with hours of pulsating puck whacking.
The pre-tourney family skate immediately beforehand showed the softer side of the squad, summed up by ‘Mad Dog’ Malacarne coasting across the ice with his baby strapped to his chest. Further evidence followed as the grizzly Mike Fox-Higgins helped his daughter take her first ever steps on the ice and hard-nosed veteran Andrew Flinn delighted all by pushing kids around on a plastic seal.
The innovative seal trumped both the penguin and snowman skate aids and soon the kids were all pushing for a turn. The mood had become competitive even at this stage and after a short break, the pucks came out and the real action began.
All eyes were on James Mulligan and Bram Cartmell, a duo who had lifted the trophy the last two years with a different third member each time. They had been split up this year, and Mulligan's new 'Corey’s Canucks' included the energetic Corey Johnson and Seal Master Flinn, a trio touted as possible favourites for silverware. That was until their first game, when they were ripped apart by ‘The Clappers’ in the round robin as Dan Maze, Dave Carr, and Peter Dahlen fired an early warning shot to the competition.
The Clappers finished top of the rankings before the knock-out stages with the only 100% record, while at the bottom, the trio of J-Fo, Fox-Higgins and Matti Konsala were stinking out the rink with zero goals and zero wins but narrowly survived the losers' play-off thanks to having a better goal difference than their competitors.
The last placed play-off to enter the knock-out stage pitted the winless ‘The House that Lay built’ made up of Phillipe Mueller, Paul House and Mike Lay, against 'Eugenes Bram Crackers' consisting of Gorelik, new boy Christian McCracken and two-time winner Bram Cartmell. What followed was an early shower for Eugene and co but not before the Belarusian had felled the Beast with a wicked wrister to the neck area.
The Beast returned to action later, with what turned out to be a broken collarbone after only a five minute break. What a… Beast!
A knock-out stage would follow but first organiser Adam Kutas proved once again he had everything planned to perfection. Kutas, looking every bit the tournament coordinator in his blue Haringey Hounds cap and marker pen had foreseen the ever-building snow on the ice caused by the rampaging plastic seal, Johnson’s incessant stops and starts and the neverending stick handling of Baptiste Frioux.
An ice cut was in order and crucially for ‘The House that Lay built’ a rest was forthcoming. For the family members in the crowd chomping on the magnificent Ally Pally rink café food, the delay raised a few eyebrows, but thankfully no domestic arguments were observed.
The knockout stage began with the top seeds eliminated by ‘The House that Lay built’ as Phillipe Mueller and his magic white gloves clicked into gear. Then Fox and friends again failed to score a single goal in their game and exited in scoreless shame.
The games then followed thick and fast. ‘The Dodgems’ featuring Stu Wroe, Mad-Dog and Lukasz Grab-on soon headed to the showers, followed by ‘Triple C’ despite an impressive return to sniping form from Chris Weymouth backed up by the evergreen Bob Chebator and ‘New’ Chris Phillips.
Frioux, Walt Sheloff and Adam Diggens dominated their match-up but hit the pipes twice and just couldn’t force the puck home, before bidding au revoir to the trophy.
When the tournament finally reached its finale, the match up had all the makings of a classic. The ‘Fontilicious Execs’ made up of Chris ‘The Fury’ Fonte, Harry ‘The Seagull’ Grant and Frank ‘The Gaffer’ Walshe, faced off against Lay and his crew with both sides suitably exhausted from the whole experience.
Suitably it was the former King of 3-on-3 Mulligan who would officiate and keep a lid on a chippy opening.
No one knew for sure if Mike Lay had ever built a house, but with his soft hands its doubtful. What he most definitely did was put his side into the lead with an early finish from a rebound. The trophy looked to be heading his team's way until the dying seconds when ‘The Fury’ Fonte blazed home with the final shot of the game to tie things up.
Despite the broken collarbone, the Beast (yet to be x-rayed) denied Lay, Fonte, Walshe, and House before Mueller scored the vital winner in a sudden death shootout. The win sparked wild scenes on the ice, and condemned everyone to a minimum 12 months of House anecdotes and trash-talking.
Shane Kemp secured the best netminder gong with fewest goals conceded, but he, Matty and the Beast all emerged with huge credit.
The real winners of course were the family members who got to skate, and then sit in the stands and watch the Devils put on a masterclass of hockey skills and desire... Oh, and the Michael J Fox Foundation and Parkinson’s UK who were the beneficiaries of over $6,500 in raised funds. Hats off to all who played and donated - and a special mention to Adam Kutas for setting it all up for the seventh year running!