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Fired-up Devils aim to avenge defeat by the Irish.

Byline: Terry Phillips

CARDIFF Devils will re-stage Wales v Ireland this weekend - on ice!

The pain of an Irish Six Nations rugby union victory against Wales at the Millennium Stadium remains raw, but the Devils are on a revenge mission.

Cardiff face Belfast Giants twice over their biggest weekend of the Elite League ice hockey season and Devils' director of hockey Shannon Hope says: "We're out to settle the score for Wales."

Devils, who finished the regular season with six successive victories, travel toBelfast on Saturday for the play-offs quarter-final first leg and the matter will then be decided at Cardiff Bay Ice Arena, next to the international swimming pool, on Sunday (6.30pm).

The winners over two legs will qualify for the play-off finals weekend at Nottingham Ice Arena next month.

"We are on a mission for Welsh pride," said Hope. "Cardiff Devils are the only professional ice hockey team in Wales - we are the national team.

"This weekend we are playing for the whole nation-and the players are fired up for this one.

"All the guys cheered Wales in the Six Nations and we were all frustrated when Ireland won.

"Sunday will be a big evening for this nation when Cardiff Devils set out to put the record straight."

The Canadian first came to Britain more than 20 years ago, spending one season for Peterborough.

"I didn't even know where Wales was when I first came to the UK, but within a year Devils' coach John Lawless persuaded me to sign for Cardiff," said Hope. "I fell in love with Wales and I've stayed ever since.

"By any standardsm Cardiff Devils are a great hockey club.

"Our aim is to make the city of Cardiff proud of their hockey team.

"The play-offs trophy is the big one for ice hockey players - and we are determined to bring it to South Wales.

"That means overcoming Belfast Giants this weekend."

Ex-Great Britain team captain Hope is one of Cardiff's most celebrated former players - his number, 35, has been retired and hangs above the ice - while he is now director of hockey, working closely with newowner Matt Burge.

The two men are building strong links with Cardiff County Council and this week leader Rodney Berman, deputy leader Judith Woodman and Councillor Nigel Howells, head of sport and leisure, all attended the Devils awards dinner at the Holland House Hotel in Newport Road.

Belfast Giants, who will have Cardiff-born goalie Steve Lyle between the pipes and are coached by former Devils forward Steve Thornton, edged Cardiff out in the British Cup semi-finals.

The teams drew 3-3 in Northern Ireland before Giants won the return.

"We owe Giants for that one," said Cardiff player-coach Gerad Adams.

"We have talked about why we lost the second leg - and the guys have worked hard to make sure we get it right this time.

"Sometimes you have to come through the experience of losing a big match to put yourself in a position to win when the chance comes along again.

"We have a massive chance this weekend-and it would be fantastic if the people of Cardiff turn out in force to cheer their team on."

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Shannon Hope wants his Devils to fell the Giants for Wales
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 26, 2009
Words:543
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