Following the refurbishment of the Imperial Devils website, we thought it would be a good idea to recap the annual end of season tournament in Sheffield: the National Championships.
The C team, comprised almost wholly of players who learnt to play at the beginning of the year made a massive splash at Nationals, far exceeding expectations and coming out second in the group. This qualified them for the semi-finals against the favourites, the Oxford Vikings Bs, who boasted a mix of veterans and beginners. The Vikings, who had only conceded 1 goal in their group stage matches, quickly found themselves bested by a Power Play goal from Ralph Flint. However, they struck back in quick succession to lead 2-1. In a shortened format at Nationals, the C team found a game tying goal from Thomas Bi to push the Vikings into a shootout. Unfortunately, a goal from Vikings veteran Koivula dashed the C team’s hopes, exiting the competition in the semi-finals. The Vikings went on to win the competition 2-0 in the final.
After a very successful regular season which saw the Devils B team come runners up in a competitive Div-2 Non-Checking Division, hopes were high at the Nationals competition. However, the Devils found themselves in a tricky group composed of undefeated Oxford Vikings A-team, Northern runners-up Northumbria Kings and locals Sheffield Bears E.
Despite outshooting the Kings 20-3, the Devils B fell 0-1 in their first group game, putting themselves in an extremely tricky situation. A respectable 0-2 loss to the Vikings meant that their fates were riding on other group results. Throwing caution to the wind, the B’s came at Sheffield but unfortunately were caught on the break and fell 1-2. A lone win against Cambridge Eskimos saw the Devils B exit the competition at the group stage.
The A team had a very respectable campaign, finishing runners-up to Southampton Spitfires despite sharing a 2-2 head to head record in Division 2 South Checking. Despite missing key players such as Luffareli, Sadikov and Lidell, hopes were high for the small squad.
With what could be described as a long and hard night of team bonding, the Devils had their toughest group game against the undefeated Manchester Metros. Despite conceding an early power play goal from Latvia international Vlad Vulkanovs, the Devils fought back to tie it 1-1 late. An unfortunate stick break from veteran Tim Runcorn led to a a defensive breakdown and a 2-1 lead for Manchester, which was added to following another defensive turnover on a break out. The Devils threatened throughout, but were unable to claw back the deficit, eventually conceding a fourth goal with the empty net.
Having blasted away the cobwebs from the night before, the Devils improved and beat the ever dangerous Birmingham Lions 5-2, and Sheffield Bears C 3-1. The Devils finished off their group games with a 4-0 win over Nottingham Mavericks Bs sending them through to the semi’s due to start only an hour later. With 9 skaters, the Devils played admirably in the semi-finals, only to be sunk by a last minute goal coming from a scramble in-front of the net for a final score of 2-3 Newcastle Wildcats. This match was to be the curtain call for long time Devil Trent Allen, who ended the tournament with 6 goals.
Overall, it was a successful weekend despite the lack of silverware. With the majority of the core players staying for the 18-19 season, we anticipate a successful year ahead.