British ice hockey set to 'overtake other leagues' says Cardiff Devils coach Lord

Cardiff Devils coach Andrew Lord
Cardiff Devils head coach Andrew Lord first joined the club as a player in 2013
Challenge Cup: Cardiff Devils v Guildford Flames & Elite League: Cardiff Devils v Glasgow Clan
Venue: Viola Arena, Cardiff Dates: Sat 14 Sept, 19:00 BST & Sun 15 Sept 18:00 BST

Cardiff Devils head coach Andrew Lord believes British ice hockey is going from strength to strength and may soon be ready to challenge the game's elite.

The Canadian points to Great Britain's performance to remain in the elite World Championship, plus his own team's Champions Hockey League (CHL) heroics.

"I think it's at a real tipping point now, with GB's success," Lord said.

"I think the next couple of years you will see a real shift in us overtaking some other leagues in Europe."

Lord, 34, has delivered six trophies in his five seasons as Devils head coach, including last season's Play-off Championship victory, and they have started this campaign impressively with unexpected success in Europe.

Devils sit top of Group H after winning three of their four CHL games, in stark contrast to previous European ventures where they won just two out of 12 games in the two seasons they have featured in the competition.

In their first CHL game in 2017 against Swiss team HC Davos, the Devils conceded 10 goals.

This year started with two home wins over Czech club Mountfield HK and Austria's Graz99ers.

In their first match on the road Devils lost 5-2 in the reverse to Mountfield, but followed that with their first victory away in Europe against Graz99ers.

"The fact our league has been in the Champions League for the last five years has pushed the entire league," Lord added.

"I think we've played some superb hockey, I think the three wins have been textbook of how we want to play and how we need to play in that tournament.

"We've played very well defensively, we've capitalised on our chances and it's led to some historic wins for our club."

Cardiff Devils fans cheer the team on against Graz99ers in the Champions Hockey League
Cardiff Devils fans cheer the team on against Graz99ers in the Champions Hockey League

On Sunday Devils play their opening Elite League game of the new season against Glasgow Clan, although they are also in action the previous evening at the Viola Arena as they host Guildford Flames in the Challenge Cup.

Lord signed a new five-year contract in June, with Devils keen to keep him and the head coach eager to stay.

"It's my seventh season in Cardiff between playing and coaching, I've felt a real connection with the fan base, the ownership group, (managing director) Todd Kelman, the office staff and obviously the players, so it was a natural fit for me," said Lord.

"I do have the possibility of trying to move up the ranks, I'm very fortunate to have our owners understand that, but it would take something very good to look elsewhere.

"It's a great city. I'm allowed to make my own decisions, which is very fortunate for a coach.

"It's a real family feel here and I think the passion for our team and success is second to none."

'Younger, faster, more aggressive'

In the off-season the Devils signed five new players, two Canadian defenders in Sean McMonagle and Sam Jardine and three forwards, Canadians Blair Riley and Mike McNamee along with Masi Marjimaki from Finland.

Lord explained: "There's a nice blend of getting a little bit younger, a little bit faster, a little bit more physical, tenacious and we were looking to play a more aggressive game this season for effectiveness - but also for fan entertainment - and I think so far it's shown."

Their sternest challenges are to come in October with two games against the reigning European champions Frolunda Indians of Sweden, who sit second in Group H. To qualify for the CHL knockout stages would be a huge achievement.

"Nottingham did it a few years ago, - we'd love to do the same," said Lord.

"It's been a fun little ride, I'm looking forward to the final two games and hopefully we can get through into the next round."

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