KELMAN THOUGHTS ON THE CHALLENGE CUP FINAL
Cardiff Devils general manager Todd Kelman reckons the two best clubs will compete for the Challenge Cup on Sunday.
Kelman will see his current team take on his former side, Belfast Giants, when both sides meet to decide the destination of the trophy at Ice Arena Wales.
And the 43-year-old admits it’s a club he still has affection for, but not when they come head to head with the Devils, whom he joined in 2014.
“It’s obviously going to be interesting on Sunday and I’m delighted we’re playing Belfast in this year’s final,” he said.
“All season long, I feel we’ve been the two best teams, although Manchester have pushed ahead of the Giants, but from Christmas onwards, it’s seemed like a real push for the Conference between us.
“For me, the right two teams got there and we made life difficult for ourselves in the semi-final, but we’re there and it’ll be interesting for me coming up against my old club.
“A lot of people assume you want the worst for your old club after you leave them, but I’m of the position that if we don’t win the league, then I’d want Belfast to win it above anyone else.”
Kelman was Belfast’s GM between 2007 and 2014 and was in charge in their only success to date in the competition, in 2009 when they defeated Manchester Phoenix over two legs.
And as he looked back on that day when Mike Burgoyne’s winner made the difference, the Devils boss has his sights on seeing his current team retain the cup for a second year.
He added: “My recollections of 2009 are of my player-coach, Steve Thornton, with his arm hanging off, wearing a cast.
“He basically played with a broken wrist against a Tony Hand-led Manchester Phoenix, who had a goalie who we eventually signed the following year and we were ridiculed for it.
“It was, of course, Stephen Murphy, who’s been at the Giants now for nine years and has been a big part of the club.
“I actually spoke with Steve Thornton when we both reached the final this year about the game and our recollections of it.
“Mike Burgoyne checked Tony Hand and went on to score the winner in what was a very dramatic day.
“We didn’t play in the Odyssey Arena as it was then, now the SSE of course and our agreement wasn’t good so we ended up playing the second leg in the Dundonald Ice Bowl.
“It was the first time Belfast had ever played there and we won a cup on it. We didn’t even win the cup on home ice.
“Looking ahead to Sunday, I never like to predict things. This cup is very important to us and I was recently asked if I would be happy to take the league and lose the Challenge Cup.
“I said, no I want both and as a club, we want them all. That’s the mentality of winning.”
PHOTO: Cardiff Devils