Ice hockey: Devils book first place in final stages

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The Independent Online
Cardiff Devils, the League champions, booked the first place in the Superleague Championship semi-finals next weekend with a 4-3 win over Ayr Scottish Eagles in Group A on Sunday. Newcastle Cobras and Ayr vie to join them at the Nynex Centre, Manchester. In the other group, Sheffield Steelers and Nottingham Panthers are all but guaranteed places.

It all looked easy enough for the Welsh on Sunday when they put away four goals in 12 minutes, though Ayr fought back to 4-2. The game blew up half-way through with a fracas which saw the Devils' Mike Ware miss the rest of the game and Eagles' back-up minder Colum Cavalla out for 12 minutes.

With calm restored, Eagles reduced the difference to one goal 10 minutes from the end, but with two minutes remaining, Devils were on a power play. Eagles gambled by pulling off their netminder Sven Rampf for the extra skater but with one second on the clock, Doug McCarthy hit the empty net for a 5-3 win.

In Group B, Sheffield Steelers and the Benson and Hedges Cup winners, Nottingham Panthers, look like making the Championships after this weekend's action. Panthers are almost certainly there after Saturday's 6-3 defeat of Sheffield, who hit back with a 3-1 win at Bracknell Bees the following night.

Bracknell's hopes are now thin, while Basingstoke Bison need to win three of their remaining four games to progress.

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