CC Final 1st leg – Devils 2 Panthers 4

Half-time in the cup final and Panthers got the best possible result in Cardiff, bringing a two goal lead back to the NIC. The big blue tent was packed and the atmosphere was electric as play got under way just over an hour late, due to Cardiff’s Zamboni breaking down and a replacement having to be brought in elsewhere. This lead to chants by the large travelling contingent of “I had a Zamboni, the wheel fell off” and “We’ve got two Zamboni’s”!
Fun & games started almost from the start. Brad Voth elbowed Kevin Bergin in the face, so Bergin responds with a cross-check to the back, Voth then goes down like he’s been shot! I actually looked to my left expecting to see a sniper running out of Block 14 with rifle in hand! Later in the game he did another dying swan act, theatrically diving to the ice under very little pressure, leaving referee Andy Carson distinctly unimpressed. I’m at a loss as to why Voth felt the need to do this, I think he is a great player, especially in the tight confines of the blue tent, but last night he had very little impact on the game which surprised me as on my previous visits to the tent he has been immense.
Very little five on five hockey was played in the first period, Carson seemed to be intent on calling everything. Both sides had chances to open the scoring, but both netminders held firm and it was 0-0 at the first interval.
In the second period Cardiff started to apply the pressure and spent long periods camped in our zone, but despite their possession it was Panthers who took the lead on a counter attack. Marty Gascon dropped a pass to Bruce Richardson and his shot nearly broke the back of the net! Nothing Stevie Lyle could do, I doubt he saw it! Soon after, a powerplay gave Cardiff the chance they needed to equalise, Tyler Michel with a blue line blast that beat KSP all ends up. 1-1 at the second interval, and it was tighter than a gnat’s chuff as we went into the final period.
The third continued in the same vein as the second had finished, lots of Devils possession. They took the lead as Michel finished a nice passing move to fire past KSP close in. With Devils in the lead I expected Panthers to completely shut up shop and take a one goal deficit back to the NIC. They did shut up shop very effectively, but suddenly the forwards clicked and the goals started to come. Marc Levers equalised as a pass across the zone left Lyle out of position and Levers gleefully fired into the net. During the third there was a lot of cheap shotting by both sides, Panthers with a lot of chopping and slashing and Devils running KSP at every opportunity. What was good to see is players rushing in to protect KSP and clear the crease. What was also good to see (although I’m sure the Devils fans won’t agree) was Devils players getting called for retaliation rather than Panthers players getting called for the original offence. Time and again we’ve fallen foul of this so it was good to see us being the beneficiaries for a change.
Panthers took the lead through Gascon who found some space and beat Lyle on his near post. Then the icing on the cake came while short-handed. Danny Meyers broke down the right, and powered a shot past Lyle. Cue pandemonium in the away blocks, cue silence everywhere else! 4-2 final score.
This was a great road performance by the Panthers, especially when you consider how effective Cardiff are in their own rink. However it is only half-time, the Devils are a bloody good side and the trophy is by no means won yet. Having said that, if Panthers apply the same passion and desire in the second leg as they did last night then Danny Meyers should be holding aloft a nice silver trophy come 10pm on the 9th March.

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