Following their shock defeat to the Dundee Stars mid-week, the Belfast Giants bounced back in league action to take a maximum 4 points from the weekend and retain their position at the top of the Elite Ice Hockey League.
Saturday night witnessed the Giants make their third and final league visit to the Spectrum and take on the Guildford Flames. Paul Dixon’s side going into the game off two hard fought matches against the Blaze and Devils which brought many goals but only 2 points for their hard work.
Giants opened the scoring mid-way through eh first with a lovely worked end to end move from Tyler Beskorowany, to David Rutherford and finished by, Giants Captain, Blair Riley. 20 minutes later, Darcy Murphy was to double the advantage and then Francis Beauvillier put the Giants well and truly in the driving seat with the 3-0 lead.
Ian Watters was to get one back for the home team, but with a little under 9 minutes remaining in the game the task was unsurmountable for the Flames and the Giants picked up the points with a 3-1 victory.
The win over the Flames brought to an end a gruelling 17 game domestic road stretch for the Giants. From those 17 games, Adam Keefe’s side took 14 victories in all competitions and with that made their return to the SSE Arena for a match up against the back-to-back league champions, Cardiff Devils.
Cardiff, playing in their only game of the weekend in Belfast, were out for revenge over a Giants side who had humiliated them in their own barn earlier in the season. Giants hoping to further cement their challenge for the title with a homecoming victory.
It was the Giants who struck first, a bullet of a one-timer by Jim Vandermeer zipping through traffic and by Ben Bowns. As the red light went on, so the Teddy’s rained from the stands in the annual charity Teddy Toss, a wonderful drive by the Giants and a great response from the fans.
The one-time shot from Vandermeer itself fitted with the other theme of the game, Throwback Night. The Giants wearing a fantastic jersey that harkened back to the early seasons of the game in the Odyssey Arena, and the slap by Vandermeer showed that the art of the one-timer, missing for a period in the early days of the EIHL as the standards needed to be built again, was once again alive and well.
Yet from the re-start it only took Evan Mosey 61 one seconds to latch on to a heads-up play by Gleason Fournier and fire by Beskorowany and level the proceedings in the 1st period.
Only one goal in the 2nd period, but a beautifully worked no-look behind the back pass by David Rutherford allowed Blair Riley to continue his scoring streak and finish from a very tight angle and regain the lead for the Giants.
And end to end battle of a game between two of the league’s best teams ensued. Charles Linglet was to even things up once again in the 3rd, rounding in tight on the Giants goal and flipping the puck over Beskorowany’s blocker.
And so to OT, with all the thrills and spills it can bring, not least with 2 magnificent saves form Ben Bowns and countless number of odd-man rush chances, yet the sides could not be separated in the final 5 mins of open play.
Every shootout needs a hero or two, and in this case Tyler Beskorowany and David Rutherford combined to backstop and fire the Giants to the full 2 points, their second win over the Devils this season in an entertaining and breath-taking battle cementing Giants position on top of the EIHL tree.
Giants return to action on Tuesday night with an 8-0 lead over the Dundee Stars for the 2nd leg of the Challenge Cup quarter final, before coming back to EIHL action on Saturday with two more games on the road, in Glasgow and Manchester.
Words: Patrick Smyth Photos: William Cherry / PressEye / Guildford Flames
Video: Belfast Giants TV Audio: Joel Neill / AVFTB
PODCAST: Captain, Coach, Century – This Week’s A View From The Bridge chats to Adam Keefe, Omar Pacha and Aaron Murphy. The Lads look at the weekends split weekend with Sheffield and the Challenge Cup romp in Dundee, they also discuss the Player of the Month contenders.
A View From The Bridge Podcast, Official Podcast of the Belfast Giants, part of Kingdom Of The Giants.
Tuesday: Belfast Giants (8) v Dundee Stars (0), 7pm, Challenge Cup Quarter Final – 2nd Leg (Webcast)