By Oliver Hampson – from the CHL website (photo by Werner Krainbucher)

Action in Group H continues to heat up as the Graz99ers hosted the Cardiff Devils, with only a handful of points separating the four teams in the group, points were crucial between the two sides as they met at Merkur Eisstadion.

With Graz starting strong, testing the goalie early, it was actually Cardiff who broke the deadlock. A faceoff win by Matthew Myers saw the puck passed back to defenseman Gleason Fournier who cycled to the middle, shooting through traffic to beat Thomas Höneckl to open the scoring, which proved to be the only goal of the opening period of play as the Devils held onto a narrow lead through 20 minutes. It took just 24 seconds into the second period for Cardiff to add their second, Bryce Reddick was given way too much time and space at the right point to grab the second goal, and just minutes later the visitors took even my control of the game. As they threatened the Graz99ers net, Blair Riley tried to tuck in the rebound, but as the puck went behind the net, defenseman Sean McMonagle picked it up and wrapped it around the net for a 3-0 lead to Cardiff. As the Devils held onto their lead, the Graz99ers finally broke through later in the period. A faceoff win in the offensive zone saw a shot deflected in front by Dwight King, beating Ben Bowns to make it 3-1 heading into the final 20 minutes of regulation.

After scoring late in the second, Dwight King wasted no time getting back on the scoresheet in the final period. As Graz pressured the Devils in their own zone, King put a speculative effort towards net, which took a bounce off Ben Bowns and into the back of the net to make it a one goal game with plenty of time remaining, but it was short lived as a powerplay shortly after saw Cardiff regain their two goal advantage. Sean McMonagle fired a shot from the point and the puck took two deflections on it’s way to the back of the net, with Blair Riley being the last Devil to touch the puck as they opened a 4-2 lead.

Cardiff added an insurance goal as Blair Riley plays a pass across ice to spring Sean Bentivoglio loose, and he found space between the legs of Höneckl to give Cardiff a 5-2 lead with seven minutes remaining and they held firm for the rest of regulation to pick up a crucial three points to go back to top spot in Group H after the first four games of the Group Stage, picking up their first ever win on the road in the Champions Hockey League.