There are certain pairings that just define Christmas: turkey and ham, mistletoe and wine, Santa and Rudolph…
…the Belfast Giants and the Glasgow Clan.
The latest festive instalment of the Irish Sea rivalry began at the SSE Arena with with good Giants pressure on goaltender Joel Rumpel. An early Power Play (Craig Peacock, hooking, 1.31) came frustratingly close to opening the scoring on a few occasions.
However, at 8.15 it was Craig Peacock again making headlines. The former Belfast Giant firing past Tyler Beskorowany to send a strong travelling contingent wild. (Assists: Doucet, Gutwald) (0-1)
The Glasgow Clan settled into a conservative game- employing the neutral zone trap and pouring bodies into the Clan slot when threatened.
A Curtis Leonard clapper from the low slot ripped into the back of Joel Rumpel’s net as time expired on the first period, the (perhaps slightly optimistic) Giants crowd voicing their displeasure at the waved off buzzer-beater.
The Glasgow Clan doubled the score at the very start of the second period- a lapse in Belfast’s defence letting Gerard Hanson in close to slot home low past Tyler Beskorowany (Assist: Erhardt) (0-2)
The Giants had their first meaningful offense five minutes into the period, David Rutherford breaking down the slot with a beautiful dangle which Joel Rumpel was a good match for.
The Giants frustrations were compounded midway through the period when the Clan struck again through Rasmus Bjerrum, whose fairly routine wrister leaked under Beskorowany and agonisingly rolled over the line. (0-3)
Adam Keefe immediately called a Time Out to steady the ship, and it wasn’t long before Jim Vandermeer was to drop the gloves with Glasgow’s Tyson Wilson, feeding him a number of big bombs in a solid tilt beside the travelling Clan fans.
The Belfast Giants continued to struggle offensively, Glasgow’s neutral zone trap proving effective with very few pucks finding their way into the final third.
It was a Zack Fitzgerald slashing call which finally opened the window for the Giants with five minutes and change left in 2; Patrick Dwyer dancing over the blueline between Clan defensemen to set up David Rutherford in the right hand side of this zone, his wrist shot flying past Joel Rumpel’s high left. (1-3) (Assist: Dwyer, Murphy)
Almost immediately afterwards, Glasgow’s Matt Hatwood sat for interference and a red hot Giants Power Play struck again- Josh Roach setting up Dustin Johner to draw the home side to within a goal as the second period expired (2-3) (Assist: Roach + Ferland)
Both sides exchanged penalties as the third period got underway- Belfast’s Power Play unit taking the ice through a Doucet holding the stick call, before Mark Garside sat for hooking at 44:00.
Before the Mark Garside penalty could expire the Clan once again took a penalty, Tyson Wilson heading to the box for interference. The Belfast Giants were to strike on the Power Play for the third time, thanks to David Rutherford unassisted at 46:59.
At this point, the SSE Arena utterly erupted. (3-3)
But the men in Teal weren’t done.
Almost immediately afterwards, Kevin Raine fed Dustin Johner who absolutely ripped home the Giant’s fourth unanswered, their first even strength marker of the night. (4-3)
Travis Erhardt then decided to completely lose the plot, taking successive penalties before finally heading to the dressing room for unsportsmanlike conduct with around 7 minutes left.
The Clan penalties just kept coming, as Stupka sat for a faceoff violation within the final five minutes. Darcy Murphy pounced, firing home Belfast’s fifth unanswered and fourth on the Power Play at 56:25. (Assist: Rutherford, Riley) (5-3)
The Clan found time to strike again with change left in the final minute (5-4), but the Belfast Giants hung on to seal a huge comeback victory and pick up points 3 and 4 of the weekend.