Strong pre-match comments on Sheffield Steelers come back to haunt Cardiff Devils

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Maybe it wasn't the smartest move in the world.

Cardiff Devils' coach Brodie Dupont had announced before Wednesday's match at Sheffield that his team 'hated' Steelers and he was looking for his side to 'bulldoze' them in the Challenge Cup quarter-final first leg. Ooops.

His remarks did Sheffield coach Aaron Fox's pre-match team talk for him.

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Sheffield hadn't actually needed such motivation, having lost to Cardiff in the League, the previous weekend.

Yet Dupont's blunt speaking might well have played a role in Steelers' emphatic 5-1 first leg win.

If there was a metaphoric bulldozer on the ice, it was driven by two-goal Steeler Brandon Whistle and his pals.

Sheffield rained down 36 shots on goal and could have had more goals by the end of the contest.

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Cardiff might want to consider moderating their tone off the ice and doing a lot better on it, when the teams meet again on December 14.

Tomas Pitule and Joey Martin locked in combat during Sheffield Steelers big win over Cardiff DevilsTomas Pitule and Joey Martin locked in combat during Sheffield Steelers big win over Cardiff Devils
Tomas Pitule and Joey Martin locked in combat during Sheffield Steelers big win over Cardiff Devils

Fox's public response to Dupont's vernacular was diplomatic.

"Hate is a strong word," he said. "I'll say this: When I came into the League in 2019 I knew Cardiff and Belfast (Giants) were the cream of the league at that point and my goal was to close the gap on them as quickly as I could.

"I felt there was a considerable gap...they were winning a lot of the trophies.

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"I like our group this year I think there are trophies in that locker room.

"Whoever we play I am trying to win a hockey game. I haven't been here long enough to have hatred or animosity towards any singular team.

"I know they are a team that will compete for trophies every single year so they are a huge rival to us."

Wednesday's first period had been relatively below par other than the one moment of sheer quality when Whistle skated in from the left wing and dispatched a shot over Taran Kozun's arm.

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Ryan Penny came closest for Devils when his shot looped on to the roof of the home net.

A highly watchable second period was seized 3-1 by Sheffield, who were energised by Robert Dowd's fight with 6ft 5ins Joshua Brittain.

Evan Mosey signalled his return from injury with a goal on the resulting power play.

Matt Petgrave displayed some absolute sorcery on the ice for Sheffield's third, although Joshua Waller briefly gave Cardiff hope with a goal at the other end.

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Whistle, however, wristed home his second of the night at 35:48.

Sheffield eased into a 5-1 lead with Danny Kristo finding the top corner on the power play at 51:54.

Fox said his four lines had pushed the pace and worn Devils down.

He complimented Dowd's contribution on his 700th appearance, saying the forward had stuck up for himself and his team mates in the 'Battle of Brittain.'

"I've never seen him lose a fight since I have been here."

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Mosey's skating had been a fillip for the team and Scott Allen's net-front presence had been an asset.

Fox explained that he had picked the returning pair ahead of Brendan Connolly and Adam Raska partly because they were 'heavier' players and his side needed to play physically.