Cardiff Devils 2 - 1 Nottingham Panthers
Faceoff: 18:00 - 21/10/12
Cardiff Devils fought back from a goal down to beat the Nottingham Panthers 2-1 thanks to a powerplay double from Max Birbraer.
After a slow and scrappy start, the game burst into life midway through the first period after a series of big hits from both sides. Nottingham came closest to opening the scoring first, when Matt Francis and Anthony Stewart combined but the shot came back off the post. Cardiff then looked destined to score when Mac Faulkner hit a one-timer towards the goal only for Craig Kowalski to make a stunning sliding save at his near post.
The game remained goalless going into the second period as Nottingham started to control the game and create the better chances. When an attempted Devils clearance hit an official and bounced kindly into the path of David Clarke, he let rip with a shot that flew past Phil Osaer to finally break the deadlock.
Nottingham had several chances to extend their lead only to be denied by a series of Osaer saves, most notably a perfectly timed poke check when David Clarke was through on goal.
The Devils were arguably fortunate to be only a goal down at the second period break, but they came out at the start of the third with a much better tempo that forced Nottingham into a series of penalties.
Stephen Lee was already in the bin for holding when he was joined by Brandon Benedict, presenting the Devils with more than a minute of 5-on-3 powerplay. After several near misses, Max Birbraer was allowed to carry the puck in on goal before a quick fake made Kowalski commit and Max roofed the puck into the top of the net to tie the game.
With the atmosphere close to raising the roof off the Big Blue Tent, the momentum quickly shifted to the home team and just three minutes later they took the lead. Matt Myers had already been sent to the bin for bringing Birbraer down from behind to give the Devils another powerplay, and when the puck found its way to Max he fired the puck in from a tight angle to make it 2-1.
Nottingham were struggling to stop Birbraer, and when with 5 minutes to go he was brought down again he was this time awarded a Penalty Shot. It gave him a great chance to complete his hat-trick, but despite beating Kowalski his shot hit the crossbar and bounced clear.
A powerplay with four minutes to go gave the Panthers a great chance to equalise but the Devils defended strongly, putting their body on the line time and time again to block shots. Though Nottingham pulled their netminder with a minute to go it was Cardiff who came closest to scoring, with that man Birbraer firing a long range shot at the empty net that drifted just wide.
The miss wasn’t to cost the Devils though, as just seconds late the buzzer sounded to signal the end of the game and a 2-1 victory.