Adam Keefe had mentioned he was going “back to the drawing board” following last night’s cup defeat at the hands of Dundee, in search of an offensive formula able to convert more of the Giants staggering 68 shots on goal in a frustrating Saturday night at the SSE.
Still in search of his first goal, Jean Dupuy got the nod in the starting six alongside Bobby Farnham and Liam Reddox. Meanwhile, Shane Owen backstopped his starting defensive pairing of Kevin Raine and Mark Garside. The Giants were still without Jesse Forsberg in an otherwise healthy lineup.
Belfast certainly looked more offensively potent in the first period, pressing high and driving the net in a performance more akin to their pre-season outings. Most notable was their willingness to chase rebounds and secondary goalscoring opportunities- there was more or less always a teal shirt camped off the crease looking for a bite of the cherry.
This was rewarded at 9.13 when Liam Morgan struck the Giants ahead on the power play (Lepine, Holding, 8.31), wristing the puck from deep in the zone with a meaty deflection off a what looked like Brian Ward’s blade on its way past Kevin Carr. (1-0)
Belfast took an interference call (Pelech, 9.34), followed by a Panthers Slash (Jakobs, 12.25), and another at 17.07 courtesy of Ollie Betteridge- but the sides headed for the rooms with the score locked at 1-0.
The arena buzzed with talk of a much improved Giants in the opening period.
SOG: Bel 19-9 Nott
Matt Pelech headed to the box for roughing at 22.50, a borderline call which didn’t sit well with many of the home fans. Nevertheless the Belfast Kill unit stood tall in their second outing of the night.
The Giants looked the more threatening for the vast majority of a free flowing second period- cycling in the Panthers zone at will and continuing to actively seek deflections and rebounds. At the same time, it’s fair to say Nottingham seemed sluggish- threatening with the odd breakaway which was smothered by the Belfast D lines.
They did however ring the post from deep in the zone, before Ben Lake headed to the box for Tripping at 32.36- the Giants PK unit were more than good for their third kill of the night.
Both Jordan Smotherman and Matt Pelech exchanged words with Panthers captain Brett Bulmer with around five minutes left in the period
Tempers continued to fray moments later as the Giants were handed another power play, a visibly unhappy Jens Jakobs sitting again for Interference at 35.54.
Brian Ward was handed a 5+Game for tripping as the period wound to a close, a call which rippled confusion throughout the arena.
SOG: Bel 35-20 Nott
The Giants 5 minute kill was eased a minute and five seconds into the period, when a Desantis high sticking call sent the sides to 4 on 4.
Nottingham’s discipline continued to falter, with Fick and Betteridge called for hooking and tripping respectively (41.05 / 43.14)- sending Belfast onto a 4 on 3 power play.
Kevin Carr pulled of a pair of sensational saves to keep Nottingham in the game, the Giants were knocking on the door but again- between a hot goalie and an inability to convert grade A chances- were being denied.
Matt Pelech was given 2 for a crosscheck in the Giants zone at 51.47, denting Belfast chances of further offense as the game wound to a close.
But, at full strength, Belfast pressed. Ben Lake played a cross ice pass in the zone to Lewis Hook in the slot, who fed Liam Morgan for the finish at 54.14. (2-0)
With a slight cushion, Belfast had to eat a penalty kill as Paul Swindlehurst sat for interference at 54.59. On the power play and back to full strength, Nottingham pulled netminder Kevin Carr in favour of the extra skater.
Nottingham did a good job of cycling in the Belfast zone in the final two minutes, calling a timeout with a minute and change left in the game.
But it was Curtis Hamilton who put it on ice for Belfast- netting the empty net goal from the faceoff circle with just under 38 seconds left. (Assist: Leonard) 3-0