Photo courtesy of Helen Brabon
Devils 7 – 3 Panthers
After an efficient road win the previous night in Milton Keynes, it was back to business at the IAW, after Wednesday night’s legendary comeback. With Louis still out, it provided another opportunity for Paris to demonstrate his continued improvement since his comeback. The Devils started with some early pressure and hit the post. The Myers-Faryna-Batch line had some early shifts and proved effective in forechecking. However, when Pope got a slashing call at 5.49, the Panthers took the lead with a shot from the blue line by Perlini, which was deflected in by Brown. Haddad continued to pester in front of the net and Galbraith fashioned two smart saves. Two simultaneous penalties were called on Farmer and Billingsley, but the Devils could not capitalise on the 5 on 3 PP with some resolute defending from the Panthers. It began to feel like it may become a frustrating game with several passes flashing across the crease but without the finishing touch.
The second period put aside any doubts of this getting away from the Devils. Fournier flipped the puck up from boards, it was touched down by Strachan and finished by Faryna, as he was falling away from the goal. A minute later Faryna on the rush fired through Galbraith’s five hole, with Bowns getting an assist. A third looked imminent when Benti went through but a desperate poke check save from Galbraith prevented the onslaught momentarily. But this was only a reprieve and it began to feel like Wednesday night again. A powerplay gave Mo two quick chances in succession before the Ulmer tip in from Pope slapshot combination once again proved fruitful. At 3-1 the game was effectively over with the Devils in this form. When both teams were reduced to four players, Haddad ghosted across the defence and finished back handed for a goal that had us laughing at its audacity. The period finished 4-1, with the Devils seeming irresistible.
The third period was a slower affair with the Devils trying unsuccessfully to set up cycling on the left side. However, nearly halfway through the period, Hotham set up Faryna from behind the goal to complete his hat trick. The Devils have developed a satisfying tendency of scoring two in quick succession recently, and this occurred again when Mo’s was spilled by Galbraith for Crowder to force home in front of net to make it 6-1. Galbraith was then swapped out, so the Devils put Murdy in as well. At 13.27 Benti pushed it out to, who else, Faryna who was unmarked in the slot and he again fired it through the nettie’s 5-hole to make it the 2nd 7-1 scoreline this week and Faryna got his fourth. The Devils conceded a couple of late goals when Ulmer and then Batch took penalties, and the Devils usually effective PK unit was ineffective. But it was immaterial at this late stage in the game, and the 7-3 scoreline probably flattered the Panthers in the end.
The Panthers looked a dispirited team tonight, Neilson was largely immobile on the bench, and there was little fight once the Devils had equalised. They were carrying some injuries but there seems a deeper malaise in the club, and they were unrecognisable from the magisterial team that had showcased the EIHL in Europe. The Giants lost tonight, so this win was additionally significant. The first year when the Devils were chasing the title, they folded on the run in. Last year they learnt to get the job finished. This year they seem assured, confident, as if they feel they deserve it. As the IAW echoed to chants of “Oh, Justin Faryna”, the Devils fans sense it too.