Belfast Giants went into the game against GKS Katowice looking revenge for defeat in the Semi Final, but also in the knowledge that a victory would set up a “Winner Takes All” final game against Arlan Kokshetu on Sunday night.
A fernetic opening 10 minutes was punctuated by an unbelivable save on the penalty kill by Tyler Beskorowany. With Katowice’s Devecka clear in on the right hand side and the goal gaping, Beskorowany took a post to post dive and gloved the slapshot out of the air.
End to end aciton tested both netminders but the deadlock was broken at 17:07 when Darcy Murphy turned in the slot and released a speculative shot through traffic that took a tip off a Katowice d-man and carried over the right pad of goalkeeper Kevin Lindskoug (1-0).
Murphy turned provider as the period ended setting up David Rutherford with a peach of an opportunity close in, but this time Lindskoug was equal to it and the period closed with only a 1-0 deficit.
Katowice started the 2nd period quickly, taking only 14 seconds to level proceedings. Fraszko slotting by Beskorowany straight off the whistle and putting Giants on a backfoot. (20:14)
Giants had to soak up a lot of pressure from the visitors in the opening 5 minutes of the period to keep the score level.
But with 8:46 remaining on the period a link up between Blair Riley to Kendal McFaul whose slapshot from the point rocketed of the boards behind Lindskoug’s goal and Darcy Murphy was there to tap it int he net and make it 2-1 Belfast (31:15).
Giants maintained pressure on the Katowice goal as the period rode on, but struggled to find a further chink in Lindskoug’s armou.
Katowice found one in Beskorowany’s, with 9.6s remaining on the clock Laakkonen found time on the edge of the crease to lift the puck over the Giants goalie and level proceedings 2-2 (39:51)
Giants had taken tips from Katowice as the 3rd period started it took Curtis Leonard only 14s to skate clean through on goal and slot home his 2nd goal of the season and the Giants 3rd of the night. (3-2, 40:15)
A pulsating game of hockey on SSE Arena ice the penalty called on Wanacki brought a strong reaction from Katowice head coach Tom Coolen who, as his team did their best to draw level was infurated by the late 2+2 call by the referee and only 5 mins to go. Slamming the door and screaming at the referees.
Lindskoug stood tall in an impressive performance as Katowice were awared a second penalty to give the Giants a 5 on 3 in the dying minutes of the game. But Dustin Johner had the tip in front of goal to give the Giants a 4-2 lead (58:52).
This served only infuriate Coolen even more as he was ejected and put the Giants BACK on the 5 on 3 for the remainder of the game.
And so it ended.
A superb game of hockey, revenge for the Giants and the set up for a Winner Takes All battle on Sunday against Arlan Kokshetau.
Words: Patrick Smyth Pics: William Cherry/PressEye Audio: Joel Neill/AVFTB