Cardiff Devils head coach Jarrod Skalde ‘so excited’ for Elite League debut campaign
Cardiff Devils head coach Jarrod Skalde said he was “so excited” to start his first Elite League campaign.
The Devils return to competitive domestic action on Saturday at home against the Guildford Flames in the Challenge Cup, before starting their Elite League campaign at Sheffield Steelers the next day.
They won all four preparation matches and beat Lausanne HC in Europe.
“We’re ready to go, we’re excited, it’s for real now,” said Skalde, who was appointed head coach almost a year ago.
âWe achieved what we wanted in the pre-season and now it’s time to build on that momentum.
âThere’s so much energy in this building, our players will feed off of it. Coming into the regular season, I’m so excited to get behind this bench.
“We want to win trophies, it’s been mandatory since I got the job, that’s part of the reason I wanted the job, there is an expectation of winning.”
Despite the Devils’ perfect record in their warm-up games, against the Nottingham Panthers and Manchester Storm, the team were forced to face a “surreal and bizarre” start to their Champions League (CHL) campaign.
On the day of their opener against Adler Mannheim, it was announced that Skalde, assistant coach Neil Francis and two players had tested positive for Covid-19 and would be missing.
Former assistant coach Jamie Elson and club general manager Todd Kelman took charge of the first two games, including the victory in Lausanne.
“I was doing virtual meetings from my apartment, pre-game meetings with players on the power play and penalties,” said Skalde.
âI was so happy for Todd, we looked at a bunch of things heading into the weekend on the line suits and guys I wanted on the ice in certain situations.
“I was watching at home, calling in between periods, when Cole Sanford scored that first goal [against Lausanne] and you could see the momentum change, it was so exciting, it was pure exhilaration. “
These first challenges faced by the new Devils squad are the ones that Skalde believes will have a significant positive impact for the team going forward.
âWhen we got through my absence and asked the guys to do more than they’re used to, I told Todd this was the best bonding experience they could have ever had, you couldn’t pay for it. that, âSkalde added.
“They had to get together quickly and it’s postponed, the players like to come to the ice and be around each other.”
“Great to put this jersey back on”
Among the new faces this season longtime Devils fans are familiar, as the club welcome Cardiff-born Ben Davies again for the 2021-22 season.
The 30-year-old joined the Devils youth squad in 2003, rising through the ranks before making his first-team debut in 2007.
Davies spent seven years playing for the senior squad before moving to the Braehead Clan and subsequently the Guildford Flames.
But now Davies is aiming for more success with his childhood team.
“It’s been a long time with the lockdown but I’m very happy to be back in Cardiff and it was great to put the shirt back on,” Davies said.
âIt’s good to have the CHL to start, it gave us good preparation with the league starting this weekend.
âThe boys have the pace, we had two tough games against Nottingham but seemed to hit the ground running.
âAnd the same with Manchester, we’ve got all four wins and we’re looking forward to the weekend.
“Our goal is to come out every game and win, we’ll take everyone as they come, there are a few mixed cup games but we go into each to win.”
Seven years have passed since Davies last appeared in the Elite League for the Cardiff Devils and the club have changed significantly during that time.
The Devils are now under a new owner, with a new stadium, a new coach and higher expectations than in 2014, and Davies says the team’s improvement over the past few years is well deserved.
âThe last time I was here there were different owners, a lot has changed and it’s very professional,â Davies said.
âNow that’s what Cardiff deserves, the fans too and it’s good to see.
âThe level has definitely improved, the style of hockey has also improved.
“The reputation of the league and of British hockey is strengthened, people see ice hockey in Britain very differently now than they did five or 10 years ago.”