Ice Hockey: Wembley tonic for the Devils

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THE defending champions, Cardiff Devils, became the first team to book a semi-final place for the British championship play-offs at Wembley this weekend. To do so, they beat Nottingham Panthers twice. The away game was straightforward, but the following home game was disfigured by a mass brawl.

Cardiff won the first match 7-5, helped by their netminder, Jason Wood, having an in-form night compared to Panthers' David Graham, who had a rare off night, and was replaced by Steve Butler for the last 15 minutes after leaking seven goals from 26 shots.

On Sunday at Cardiff, Butler kept Graham out of the whole game, but he could not stop Cardiff's onslaught. They were 11-2 up at the end of the second period. Tempers frayed in the third and suddenly, the five skaters from each team were fighting, with only the two netminders desisting from the fray.

Three Panthers and two Devils were ejected and a total of 140 penalty minutes took the game total to 166. Devils won 15-3. Panthers are now bottom of their group, and will struggle to qualify. The other four-team group, from which two qualify, is headed by Sheffield Steelers who, in their debut Premier season, are also likely to make it to Wembley.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 35