Nomad Astana 3 GKS Katowice 1 (0-0, 1-1, 2-0)
Nomad secured its 100% record with victory over GKS in its third and final game in Cardiff. A big performance from young goalie Jelal-ad-Din Amirbekov, 21, saw the Kazakh team shake off an unusually lacklustre start to clinch a 3-1 verdict.
Defender Tamirlan Gaitamirov reflected on a successful weekend in Wales – and promised not to celebrate too hard until the season is over.
“We’re a family here,” he said. “We won this as a family and we’ll celebrate it as a family. But we’re I the middle of a big season, there’s still lots we have to do. We’ll have a little party tonight but then we have to go home and get back to work.”
And finishing with a 100% record still mattered, even after Saturday’s results secured the title with a day to spare.
“The result with Cardiff last night didn’t matter,” Gaitamirov added. “We weren’t even watching the game. We saw the result and just thought ‘Great, congratulations everybody, but the job’s not done.’ Katowice’s a good team, we knew we had to come out and finish the job.”
In its first two games, Nomad conjured up whirlwind starts. Today, perhaps subconsciously aware that the result would change nothing in the tournament, things were rather more sluggish. The opening frame was goalless, the second also brought relatively little goalmouth incident until the closing stages.
“To be honest, this was a bad game from us,” admitted Gaitamirov. “We can be better. We had a bad start and a bad second period. Our goalie really helped us out today. This was his win, he was our best player and it was his first game in the Continental Cup.”
Katowice, backed as ever by its noisy support, knew that a win gave it a chance improving on its third-place finish in its previous final appearance 2019. After a slow start, the Poles began to respond to the vocal urgings of their fans. Bartosz Fraszko went agonizingly close, dragging his shot back across the face of a gaping net on a power play midway through the second stanza. The pressure continued, the drums pounded behind the goal, and in the 36th minute Ryan Cook put his low shot beyond Amirbekov’s reach to open the scoring.
It was the first time Nomad had trailed all weekend, and the lead did not last long. There was always a sense that the champion had another gear if needed, and dropping a goal was the spark that shifted the stick. Barely two minutes later Maxim Musorov tied it up when he and Artur Gatiyatov got on a two-on-one break. Nomad survived one more scare – Igor Smal shooting narrowly wide on the rebound from a Miro Lehtimaki shot – before taking control in the third period.
It took just 17 seconds of the final frame for Oleg Boiko to put the Kazakhs up 2-1. That goal rather deflated Katowice, which struggled to produce its best hockey in the closing stages of its tournament. Gatiyatov had the last word, making it 3-1 in the 54th minute. The 24-year-old, who played last season in Finland’s second tier with JoKP to 5 (2+3) points for the tournament.
The hooter brought jubilant scenes among the Kazakh players as Nomad, the youngest team at this tournament, celebrated a well-merited victory.
Cardiff Devils 3 Herning Blue Fox 4 (2-2, 1-1, 0-1)
Both teams had a shot at second place in the tournament, ensuring that the final action of the 2024 tournament would not be devoid of interest. And both teams played with the brakes off, producing a high-scoring clash where neither side could hold a lead for long.
Once again, there was a lively crowd at Cardiff’s Vintico Arena soaking up the conclusion of an entertaining weekend. That highlighted the value of the Devils’ decision to step up and represent Great Britain – and especially Wales – at this tournament after Guildford and Sheffield were unable to compete.
“Whenever we have the opportunity to play in Europe, whether it’s Champions Hockey League or Continental Cup, we’ll jump at it because we love it,” said Cardiff’s managing director Todd Kelman. “European games are always different, there’s something really exciting about them.
“It’s cool to play against other teams, it brings a different atmosphere and a different energy. I know we didn’t win it, Nomad played great and they deserved it, but we’re absolutely thrilled to be in this competition. It’s been fun.”
The final game certainly brought the fun factor as Herning edged a tight verdict on Morten Poulsen’s power play goal in the third.
Cardiff struck first when Tyler Busch redirected Cody Donaghey’s point shot on 9:27. The home crowd was still celebrating that when Herning produced an instant reply. Magnus Carlsen tied it up on 9:46, tucking away the rebound from Simon Schleicher’s shot.
The goals kept coming in pairs. Andris Dzerins put Blue Fox up 2-1, but within two minutes Cole Ully had it level. Then, in the middle frame, Victor Cubars restored the Danes’ lead only for Ully to strike again within three minutes. Jamie Arniel assisted on each of Ully’s markers, joining Gatiyatov on five points.
In the third period things got more frenetic. The penalty count started to climb and Herning’s power play caused Cardiff more and more problems. The home crowd was unhappy with some of the calls, but amid chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” the Blue Fox PP demonstrated that it absolutely knew the drill: Mathias From behind the net, Morten Poulsen on the doorstep – 4-3 Herning with 10 to play.
This time, the lead held. Poulsen might even have increased it, but shot straight at Ben Bowns when well placed. Then a late Cardiff power play poured the pressure onto goalie Valdemar Andersen. After a couple of almighty scrambles and one desperate last-second surge that crashed the net, Herning held on to claim silver. That was a big thing for Andersen, who was unexpectedly thrust into the lead goaltending role after former Cardiff favourite Mac Carruth went down injured in pre-tournament practice.
For Herning, then, this was a silver forged in adversity. "For any team at this tournament, it's important to have all your guys available," reflected Oskars Cibulskis. "Unfortunately we were missing a lot of players. It's nobody's fault, it is what it is. We just had to battle through it."
Mathias Bau added: "We want to play in these tournaments. Not many players get this chance. It's been fun and we're trying to enjoy it as much as we can. We can hear our fans a lot and we're happy we could give them a victory in the last game."
The tournament directorate named Nikita Boyarkin (Nomad) as the best goaltender. Cardiff’s Bode Wilde was chose as best defender, while Nomad’s Artur Gatiyatov took the best forward prize.