Dec 7 2006
Terry Phillips, South Wales Echo
Max Birbraer scored the first hat-trick of his career to mark Echo Cardiff Devils' first match at their new rink in Cardiff Bay.
Powerful winger Birbraer led the Echo Devils to victory, smashing aside a powerful recovery from Manchester Phoenix as they hit back from 4-2 down to draw level at 4-4 in the final period.
He linked up superbly with flat-mate Mark Smith, who finished with three assists, on the first line along with Paul Sample.
'This is the first hat-trick of my career and it feels great,' said Birbraer. 'I've had a whole bunch of twos, but never managed that third.
'Everybody in the team played their part in this win. Mark was setting me up - he was brilliant.
'The new rink is outstanding. We've waited so long for a home venue and this was such a big evening.
'To score a hat-trick on my first night in front of Cardiff fans is special. A night I will never forget.
'Now we have to push on from here. The fans who came were fantastic, the atmosphere unbelievable. Now we need more people. There were empty seats and they have to be filled.'
More than 1,400 spectators were at the match, the Devils' first at the rink after the disruption last Saturday when the ice was not ready for the scheduled match against Newcastle Vipers.
Now, though, the Echo Devils are on their way and head coach Ed Patterson said: 'Our season starts here. And our aim is clear: we can still win the Elite League title.
'We have a lot of catching up to do, but we have games in hand and Saturday's match against Nottingham Panthers is huge.
'They are the form team of the moment, but we are potentially the best team in Elite League. Now we have to prove our worth.
'We have to play Nottingham five times, Belfast five times, Coventry five times. They are the leaders in the chase for the title and we have the chance close in on them and challenge them.'
The Echo Devils had pace, power and skill in a performance which left Manchester gasping for breath.
This was only the second time in two weeks Cardiff players have been able to skate, but now they will train on a regular basis at their new home.
Birbraer led the way, while winger Nathan Rempel came bursting back to form with a five-star personal performance.