As the remnants of Storm Ciara finished thrashing the UK, the London Devils manufactured their own deluge of goals - coming from behind to defeat the London Rangers 8-6 Monday night at Lee Valley. In a game that witnessed an enormous swing of momentum, a second period deficit of 5-1 left the Devils facing an apparently insurmountable hurdle to overcome. However, shift by shift, save by save, and goal by goal, the Devils strung together a superb second half of hockey which saw them score 7 unanswered goals.
From the opening puck-drop the Devils tried to utilise the classic Devils North recipe: dump, chase, cycle. The first shift witnessed that recipe being expertly implemented as the puck never left the Rangers' zone. Shortly thereafter, however, the pushback from the Rangers overwhelmed the Devils. Three quick first period Rangers goals found the Devils on their heels. A goal by Devils rookie Anthony Valada created by hardworking Harry Grant and forward-turned-Dman Paul House let the Rangers know the game wasn't over. That sentiment was short lived however, as the Rangers struck again before the first period ended to increase their lead to 4-1.
The Rangers' onslaught continued as a 2nd period goal on the first shift saw the Devils fall even further behind at 5-1 and all seemed lost. The Swiss Sniper Philippe Mueller then took a Dumas Maugile pass and buried his trademark wrister in the far top corner to make it 5-2. Quickly thereafter, blueliner Christian McCracken feathered a pass to a streaking Bob Chebator who in turn, found the back of the net and the game was suddenly 5-3. Chris Huston and Mueller then connected to keep the Devils' push going with Huston scoring and amazingly it was now 5-4. On the ensuing Devils Power Play, Jamie Sullivan took advantage of the overly aggressive Rangers PK unit by sliding the puck over to McCracken. McCracken, then zipped a wrister past the Rangers' netminder and the game was all square at 5-5. Before the 2nd period was out, the cycling trio of Mike Fox, Lukasz Gryzbon and Chebator outworked the Rangers deep in the offensive zone leading to a trickling puck eluding the Rangers netminder. Gryzbon was credited with the go-ahead goal, it was now 6-5 and the epic second period came to a close.
As the third period began, the questions which haunted the Devils earlier in the game were now being put to the Rangers bench. Would they showcase their own brand of resiliency as they had in the past? Valada immediately extinguished that hope with a quick strike, knocking in a goal-mouth rebound and the Devils maintained their offensive as they went up 7-5. Timely saves by new Devils' goalie Jason Mosher put an end to any thoughts of a Rangers comeback. The first key save followed a Devils neutral zone break down as two Rangers broke in all alone. Mosher patently outwaited the Rangers' passing, turning aside their goal mouth attempt. The second critical save, which saw Mosher turn away a Rangers breakaway, preserved the two goal lead as the clock continued to wind down. Stellar three zone play in the third period, most notably by Phil Holbrook and Harry Grant resulted in the puck being kept out of the Devils' zone. Rather than sit back, the Devils continued to press all over the ice. Another scrappy goal was the result when Chebator sifted a pass to Fox whose shot came back off the goalie to Gryzbon who stabbed home his second of the night. A late Rangers goal closed the gap to 8-6 but it was not enough as the Devils' defensemen kept it simple and killed off the game.
London Devils: Scoring
Anthony Valada (P. House, H. Grant)
Philippe Mueller (D. Maugile)
Bob Chebator (C. McCracken, P. Mueller)
Chris Huston (P. Mueller)
Christian McCracken (J. Sullivan, A. Valada) PPG
Lukasz Gryzbon (B. Chebator, M. Fox-Higgins)
Anthony Valada (P. Mueller)
Lukasz Gryzbon (M. Fox-Higgins, B. Chebator)
London Devils: Penalties
J. Sullivan (2min board)
A. Valada (2min check)
P. Mueller (4min rough)
Devils North returned from 4-1 down - including three third period goals - to stage an unlikely comeback against a strong EW side at Lee Valley.
The two sides rocked up to Lee Valley in need of a win. The North had recently been pasted 5-0 by a dominant South side, and EW were 0-2 and in danger of falling out of the cup race early. EW boasted a strong lineup, and the North welcomed back James Mulligan and Harry Grant whom it seemed hadn't skated in ages.
EW asserted themselves from the get-go and put the North under pressure. Backstop George Alley held the fort well and turned aside a number of early shots. It would take a lucky bounce to finally beat him - when Christian McCracken's pass deflected off Alley, and off the onrushing Bob Chebator to make it 1-0. Despite this setback, the North began generating chances of their own. This momentum took a hit though, when they were handed an unfortunate too many men penalty. It was then that Giuseppe Malacarne, playing with a heavily bandaged broken thumb intercepted a cross-ice pass and broke in alone on Oleg Adamchuk in the EW goal. Mad Dog Malacarne showed no sign of hindrance from the thumb, and finished with aplomb to level the score.
The EW were undaunted however, and began to press heavily on the North goal. Two identical, unstoppable rockets from Swiss sniper Philippe Mueller quickly made it 3-1. Prior to the game, some of the North squad had mocked Mueller for wearing leggings to the rink. Perhaps he was out for revenge. He then snuck in on a breakaway looking for his hat-trick, but Alley made a huge pad save to keep the Swiss at bay.
At 3-1 after the first period, it looked bleak for the North. James Mulligan urged the troops not to give up - reminding them how many shots they had in the first period. However, the memory of Mueller's rockets was fresh in their minds.
The second period was much like the first. Chris Huston finished off a play that had started with a long clearance from Adamchuk in the EW goal and it was 4-1. It began to look like a night of damage limitation was in order for the North - especially in light of their 5-0 drubbing in the previous game. EW were skating well, and captain Bob Chebator was working hard all over the ice to keep the North on their toes.
Just before centreman Harry Grant lined up for a face-off, he and longtime linemate Frank Walshe had a quick chat. Rather than to Grant's right, Walshe lined up behind in hopes of a clean face-off win - no easy feat against Chebator. Grant won the draw clean to Walshe whose one-time wrister eluded The Beast on the blocker side and there was a glimmer of Northern light at 4-2. The North needed a break and they got it (quite literally) when Stu Wroe expertly broke up an EW rush at the North blue line. He knocked it forward to Malacarne who sprung free on another breakaway. He finished for his second of the night and the comeback was on. 4-3 after two periods.
As the third period began, a momentum shift was apparent. The EW had slowed, and their 10-man bench, whilst talented, was tiring. The North were throwing everything at the EW net in hope of a break or a bounce. That was precisely what they got when Walter Sheloff's drifter eluded The Beast to tie the game at 4-4. A lucky one no doubt, but as the old saying goes - if you don't shoot, you don't score. The North were now in the ascendency and pushing for a winner. However, that momentum took a hit when forward-turned-defender Phil Holbrook took a penalty for interference when he knocked down Devils rookie Theo Abban to prevent an odd man rush. On the ensuing powerplay the EW moved the puck like a well-trained unit. The North could not keep up with the slick passing and the result was a beautifully worked goal by Huston from McCracken and Mueller. For the North it felt like the chance had gone. With only five minutes left, it looked like the EW had reclaimed the victory they had let slip away earlier. When Walshe missed a chance to tie it off a nice pass from Kevin Leizer, it seemed sealed. However, soon thereafter, Sheloff picked out a perfect pass to Leizer who moved in all alone on The Beast. Leizer's trademark slo-mo triple deke fooled The Beast, and it was 5-5 in what had become an almost ridiculous see-saw game. With two minutes left the North was pressing. EW defender Matt Greaves looked to clear the zone (and with it Lukasz Gryzbon), but Greaves had forgotten that moving Gryzbon is like trying to move a brick wall. The Pole kept the puck in and shot towards the net. Mad Dog Malacarne had a whack at it, then collected his own rebound to score and seal the win, and with it, his hat-trick. It was quite a remarkable performance from the Anglo-Italian considering the state of his hand, and that he had barely skated since early December.
The North killed off the final minute and a half with the EW playing 6 on 5 with the goalie out. Both sides were clearly exhausted as ice cold beers were collected from the barrow of ice.
Credit must go to both sides for a great game. EW for their amazing start and slick passing, and North for their grit and fight to come back from the dead.
The next Bodean's Cup game sees Devils EW host Devils South Feb 24 @ Lee Valley
Devils North: Scoring
Giuseppe Malacarne (unassisted) SH
Frank Walshe (H. Grant)
Giuseppe Malacarne (S. Wroe)
Walter Sheloff (L. Gryzbon, J. Mulligan)
Kevin Leizer (W. Sheloff, J. Mulligan)
Giuseppe Malacarne (L. Gryzbon)
Devils North: Penalties
Bench (2min too many)
Leizer (2min slash)
Holbrook (2min inter)
Devils East-West: Scoring
Bob Chebator (C. McCracken)
Philippe Mueller (B. Chebator, M. Greaves)
Philippe Mueller (E. Gorelik)
Chris Huston (J. Sullivan, O. Adamchuk)
Chris Huston (C. McCracken, P. Mueller) PPG
Devils East-West: Penalties
Devils South blueliner Andre Blais hailed divine intervention after his side shut out the Devils North in surprisingly comfortable fashion at Lee Valley.
Blais, who once revealed to the Evening Standard that he keeps fit by walking his dog between buildings rather than take the Tube, scooped the man of the match award in a game that had plenty of talking points.
The atmosphere was literally buzzing in the cheap seats pre-game as Devils East West defenseman Matt Greaves answered Whatsapp messages from his girlfriend asking why he was at the rink when the Devils schedule stated his team weren’t playing.
His answer of wanting to observe some high octane Bodean's Cup action may have been more believable had he not dragged his kit to the rink, as the simple truth was that he hadn’t read his emails.
With referee Pavel Olczak calling the shots in the stripes, when the game finally started, the South opened the scoring within five minutes.
Blais unleashed a cannon from the point that bounced off George Alley’s pad like a fat kid on a trampoline straight back to the blue line. Blais then controlled the puck and picked out Misha Neizvestnov at the far post with a perfect pass, who then finished the chance in style for 1-0.
Five minutes later it was 2-0 as a long bomb pass from Mike Brooks was tipped into the path of Richard Veinot in the neutral zone by Todd Donnelly. The South Captain skated through on goal and finished past Alley, officially marking his return from injury in style.
It should have been 3-0 moments later as the South were awarded a penalty shot when Stuart Wroe took one for the team and hauled back Neizvestnov on a breakaway.
Despite murmurs of protest from the North bench, Neizvestnov did a Prince Harry and stepped back from responsibility, opting to allow Veinot to take the shot on his behalf.
Just as the royal marriage will undoubtedly end in tears, so did Veinot’s resulting lacklustre effort as Alley denied him a second of the night.
The North did get a powerplay before the end of the period thanks to a too many men on the ice call, but James Tipple in the South net pulled off a couple of big saves to leave the score at 2-0 at the end of the first.
With Greaves now feeling the chill and sat in the café instead of the stands, the second period began with the North pushing forward with renewed purpose. Dan Maze had a big shot turned away and Richie Clark stepped up into the play more and more.
A North powerplay followed thanks to a second too many men on the ice call, but James Tipple in the South net again pulled off some big saves to keep his side ahead.
A hooking call on Kevin Leizer (which could just as easily been for high sticking / attempted tooth extraction) finally gave the South a chance to settle and they took full advantage. As the North tried repeatedly to score shorthanded, a lofted clearance by Peter Dahlen was tapped out of the air on the blue line by Blais, before he picked out Veinot unmarked at the far post to make it 3-0.
“I prayed to the big man upstairs before the game and he blessed my shaft” explained Blais when describing his contribution to the goal in the post-match press conference.
Another North powerplay came to nothing before the end of the period as Mike Brooks sat for interference - no shafts involved.
The next goal was clearly going to be crucial for either side, but it was the South who got it, albeit in extremely fortunate circumstances. This time it was Gennadi Yufit with the blessed stick, as he cut inside and fanned completely on the puck, before regaining control, shooting again, only to have it redirected by Neizvestnov for his second of the game.
The match began to develop a feisty edge as the North struggled to break through, and when Clark finally jammed the puck in past the impervious Tipple, Olczak ruled it out due to a man (or more specifically, a Kevin Leizer) in the crease.
Despite arguably more possession, the North still looked vulnerable on the counter-attack and after riding their luck they were finally outdone again. Donnelly released Paul House down the left wing and the South Captain picked out the top shelf with a big slapshot from inside the left hand circle.
The buzzer went at the end of the third leaving a 5-0 scoreline in favour of the South.
“North were lacking a defensive defenceman tonight I thought” said super fan Greaves, who sat through the full sixty minutes. “It was an electric atmosphere in the stands despite me forgetting my pom poms, and I thought the South did really well against the odds.”
When pressed on what he meant by against the odds, Greaves simply replied “Yeah the South did really well on the counter.”
The result puts the South at the top of the Bodean's Cup standings and avenges the 5-2 defeat to the North earlier in the season.
Devils South: Scoring
Misha Neizvestnov (A.Blais)
Richie Veinot (T.Donnelly, M.Brooks)
Misha Neizvestnov (G.Yufit, M.Brooks)
Richard Veinot (A.Blais)
Paul House (T.Donnelly)
Devils South: Penalties
Mike Brooks - Interference
Bench – Too many men
Bench – Too many men
Devils North: Penalties
Kevin Leizer – hooking