With Covid-19 disrupting sport across the globe and causing the cancellation of the upcoming Women’s World Championships in Nova Scotia, the big question was if the big Monday night fixture at Lee Valley would go ahead as planned.
Nova Scotia may have the Bay of Fundy, a shed load of fish, Moosehead lager and even Devils Alumni Andrew Flinn in its favour, but London has the Bodean’s Cup and it stops for nothing – apart from ice plant failure, vandalism, or the Devils North failing to ice a squad as in 2018/19 (editor's note: that happened once, we paid a penalty for it, and ultimately lost the replay as a result).
The table-topping current Cup holders North started their game against the South with an enthusiasm that could only be matched in present times by shareholders in hand gel production companies.
With just over two lines they came out of the blocks hard and forced South goalie Jason Mosher into a number of early saves.
The South took the lead however midway through the first, as Gordon Malcolm picked out Dave Carr on the point and his shot rebounded off George Alley to the awaiting Patrice Kerner who made no mistake.
The opening period would have no further goals and neither would the second as both teams were denied by a combination of good saves and poor finishing.
Holding on to a slender 1-0 lead at the start of the third, the South appeared to be in control, but switched off five minutes in. Lukasz Gryzbon steamed down the right wing on a 2 on 1 and lofted a pass across to the onrushing Dan Maze who did superbly to steer the puck past the stranded Mosher. The goal galvanised the North who piled on the pressure and took the lead soon thereafter.
Neil Goodman turned provider as he picked out Kev Leizer in the slot unmarked, and the wily veteran had enough time to adjust someone’s spine, watch the highlights of his beloved Leeds Utd, and probably find an initial cure for covid 19, before firing the puck into the bottom corner of the net.
All looked lost for the South but with six minutes remaining, a long pass from Andre Blais picked out Richie Veinot on the left wing, and the South Captain picked his spot past Alley from the angle.
At 2-2 the game was anyone's but quality was at a premium. After numerous awful stickhandling attempts by both teams, South blueliner Paul House asked the referee to change the puck.
The stripey inspected the puck like an antique dealer surveying a Swiss watch for auction and decided that no, he wouldn’t be changing the puck as it was perfectly fine and the issues lay elsewhere.
Just as the game looked to be heading for a stalemate, North forward Harry Grant sniped the winner with just three minutes remaining.
Picking up the puck in the corner, the evergreen centre curled around the top of the circle and unleashed a cannon that smashed in off the inside top corner and into the net.
It was a goal worthy of winning any game and so it proved. Post-game handshakes consisted of gloved fist pumps, with the exception of Phil Holbrook who opted for an unorthodox elbow pump.
The result now leaves Devils North top of the league with a commanding lead, and South and East West now likely to battle it out for second spot.
Devils North: Scoring
Dan Maze (L. Gryzbon)
Kevin Leizer (N. Goodman)
Harry Grant (unassisted)
Devils North: Penalties
Harry Grant (trip)
Devils South: Scoring
Devils South: Scoring
Patrice Kerner (D. Carr, G. Malcolm)
Richard Veinot (A. Blais)
Devils South: Penalties
Patrice Kerner (checking)
Andre Blais (interfere)
Todd Donnelly (trip)
Devils EW surged to their first win of the season after a flurry of goals in the second period killed off Devils South in an end to end encounter at the Valley.
The pre-game ambience had been one of sadness, frustration, and in some parts anger. This time it wasn’t from the rink staff seething at Patrice Kerner parking his car right outside on the double yellows, but at something far more sinister.
The figure skaters had yet again erected their stage on the team benches meaning a less than convenient change from doors deep in each zone for both teams.
Quite why the white booted ice wasters can’t take down their stage overnight is a modern mystery. Either way, they should be barred from Bodean’s at the very least for disrespecting The Cup.
The game finally faced off at what could best be described as a medium pace, with plenty of chances at both ends. EW struck first ten minutes in, as a Bob Chebator shot wedged under South debutant Jason Mosher’s leg pad. Theo Abban reacted quickest, poking the puck into net.
The South hit back immediately from the face off as Dave Carr found Terry Wong on the left wing and he cycled the puck down low, laying it off to Gennadi Yufit who fired high past EW fill-in keeper Kaspars to level things up.
With the game end to end, EW took the lead again as a long pass from McCracken found Abban steaming down the right wing and he found the inside top corner from the angle before wheeling away in celebration.
Before the end of the period, the Devils rookie Abban was wheeling to the penalty box as he sent Kerner flying on a tripping call. The resultant powerplay provided plenty of opportunities for South but Kaspars was proving to be a serious obstacle.
Both teams switched ends, and benches, to mitigate the poor change - as referee Pavel stood looking non-plussed.
“Ok do it” he said, making use of the stage on the benches as a nice desk to write down his stats, with Eugene Gorelik skating nearby eyeing up any inaccuracies.
Five minutes in, South bagged an early goal to equalise yet again as Rich Veinot did well to gain the zone, pass to Terry Wong who then set up a speculative effort from Paul House that appeared to bounce off Kaspars and into the net for 2-2.
EW's McCracken had been a constant menace - joining the attack at will - and South failed to heed the warnings. The big blueliner picked up the puck in the neutral zone unopposed, dangled past the flat-footed South defence and slid the puck under Mosher for 3-2.
True to the flow of the game, South equalised straight away for the third time, as a lovely backhand by House was picked up by Kerner in the slot and he swivelled 'round backhanding the puck through Kaspars' legs for 3-3.
The game fizzled out for a few minutes before another EW goal finally broke the resistance of the South.
Rowan Phendler was the architect as he weaved through the South defence before teeing up McCracken in front of goal. A minute later a two goal cushion was finally achieved as Phendler blazed in a clapper from the right wing inside Mosher’s near post.
A ruinous few minutes for the South's hopes was complete when McCracken picked up the puck in his own end and skated coast to coast, taking advantage of a poor line change to complete his hat trick and make it 6-3 before the buzzer.
The third period was pretty much more of the same as South continued to be denied by Kaspars and EW sat back on their lead. The only goal of the stanza came from Abban, who completed his hat trick by chasing down a clearance on the left wing and drilling the puck under Mosher from the angle for 7-3.
The final buzzer sounded with McCracken and Abban the heroes for EW and the figure skaters still the villains.
Beers were sunk and all look forward to the next round of Bodean’s Cup action with the North still in pole position.
Devils East-West: Scoring
Theo Abban (B. Chebator)
Theo Abban (C. McCracken)
Christian McCracken (R. Phendler)
Rowan Phendler (C. Huston)
Christian McCracken (unassisted)
Christian McCracken (unassisted)
Theo Abban (J. Foster)
Devils East-West: Penalties
Theo Abban (Tripping)
Bob Chebator (Tripping)
Devils South: Scoring
Gennadi Yufit (T. Wong, D. Carr)
Paul House (T. Wong, R. Veinot)
Richard Veinot (P. Kerner, P. House)
Devils South: Penalties
Misha Niezvestnov (hooking)
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)