Game Day 1 in Group H provided two shocks as the Cardiff Devils defeated Mountfield HK at home on Friday night, while the Graz99ers upset the reigning champions Frölunda Indians in a shootout to secure two points and a dream start to their first ever Champions Hockey League contest. On Sunday afternoon the two sides met each other, with both looking to try and move into top spot of the Group to close out the opening weekend of action.
With the game taking place in Cardiff, it was the visitors from Austria that were the first to celebrate. Just over 4 minutes into the contest, Trevor Hamilton opened the scoring for Graz with a shot from the back door, jumping on the rebound after Ben Bowns initially made a good stop, but couldn’t do anything to stop the second attempt. Cardiff almost grabbed an equaliser midway through the first period, Matias Sointu on his debut saw his shot saved by Cristopher Nihlstorp and with Stephen Dixon jumping on the rebound, he couldn’t find anything on than the post which kept Graz99ers ahead by one where the score would remain following the opening period of play.
With just one goal in the opening period of play, and 10 shots each it was an evenly It took a lengthy delayed penalty early in the second period for the Devils to finally grab the goal they’d been searching for. They kept the play alive and the tired legs of the Graz defence on the ice, and eventually as Cristopher Nihlstorp made an initial save, the puck dropped loose to Sean Bentivoglio who tapped in the equaliser. The Devils looked buoyed by their equaliser as they continued to attack and it paid off again on the rebound. A shot off Nihlstorp’s pads sprung loose to Mark Louis who calmly fired the puck into the back of the net to give the hosts a 2-1 advantage midway through the second but late in the period Graz would tie things up after some extended pressure in the offensive zone saw Philipp Linder rip a shot from the point into the back of the net. The scoring wasn’t over however as the Devils regained the lead with around 90 seconds to go in the period as Mike McNamee grabbed his second of the campaign.
Graz left it late but they eventually tied the scoring as Trevor Hamilton found the back of the net again in similar fashion to his first goal with just over three minutes remaining, and it took the game all the way to overtime and a shootout. The goalies stood on their heads in the first six rounds of the shootout, but eventually in round seven, Sean McMonagle of the Devils found the back of the net, and with Ben Bowns making a stop on the next shot, it gave Cardiff the extra point, and keeping Group H wide open after the opening weekends action.
Photo credit: Helen Brabon.