[AVFTB Post Game with Ben Lake, Liam Morgan and Adam Keefe below]
The voices and drums of a standing section rang out through the SSE Arena as puck dropped for league action against the Guildford Flames.
The standing section (named “Boomerang Corner” and in existence since 2015) presumably cobbled together at short notice to compete with the never-before-seen revolution taking place in the Viola Arena’s Block 13.
FIRST PERIOD: Rainer Kills A Guy, Giants Strike Twice
Belfast’s sense of urgency was clear when Kevin Raine legitimately evaporated Guildford’s Jamie Crooks at centre ice just four minutes in- something which seemed to inspire well established wrecking ball Bobby Farnham in his ongoing quest to break every pane of plexi in the arena.
Belfast’s vicious early forecheck drew a power play, a frustrated Ian Watters connecting his stick with the chin of Paul Swindlehurst, to no complaints from the travelling support. There’s high sticking, and there’s hitting the 11 foot high chin of Paul Swindlehurst.
Belfast killed a Ben Lake slashing penalty before opening their account on the night- Brian Ward rounding the net and feeding the biscuit to (Cam Lewis appointed “Oilers Legend”) Curtis Hamilton- his wrist shot sailing low blocker past Flames tendy Travis Fullerton at 9.09. (1-0)
50 seconds later, Fullerton was beaten again when ‘The Wee Wizard’ Patryk Wronka delivered the puck from the right side boards to Ben Lake in the mid slot. Lake’s one timer sailed into the cage, immediately adding 5mm to his moustache. (2-0)
Jordan Smotherman sat for a too many men call against Belfast, before Ben Lake ran riot again- tearing through the Flames zone and earning himself a penalty shot when he was climbed upon from behind on a near miss left post.
Travis Fullerton threw a leg out to keep his side in the game, as time expired.
SECOND PERIOD: Kruise Reddick is So Mad
Aside from a confident double stop from Giants net minder Shane Owen in the opening minute, the Giants looked comfortable in the early goings of the middle period.
Patryk Wronka was completely-avoidably crosschecked into the boards by Corbin Baldwin at 26.32, but the Giants cycle failed to materialise, before Brian Ward evened it up to 4 on 4 with an interference penalty of his own.
A much milder period unfolded, with Belfast probably winning the possession battle, but providing very little to hassle Travis Fullerton in goal.
Shane Owen denied a string of shots inside the last five minutes, to a huge roar from the stands.
Guildford Head Coach Paul Dixon spoke on A View From The Bridge this week about his ethos of keeping the core of a team together in a league with such high player turnover. And in the offseason, he did just that- bringing in only two new Defensemen and two new Forwards, before third goaltender, 21 year old Belgian Wouter Peeters, arrived this week.
And to his credit- this Flames side is good.
The sides exchanged power plays. Curtis Leonard sat for holding, and Calle Ackered sat for hooking as the game got noticeably chippy.
Guildford’s Kruise Reddick was particularly salty, drawing the ire of Belfast Captain and terrifying man Matt Pelech, who was happy to eh… frankly and honestly air his views all the way back to the Giants bench.
This caught the attention of the Teal Army’s favourite referee Andy Dalton, and the conversation (and presumably blossoming friendship) continued down the tunnel as the period drew to a close.
THIRD PERIOD: All Hell Breaks Loose
Belfast began the final period with 1:45 of power play, but their third outing of the night again failed to produce much offensively.
Speaking of PP woes, Guildford were struggling for so much as a decent zone entry on a Ciaran Long slashing penalty at 43.17- the Giants kill unit once again taking care of business on its fifth outing of the night.
A scary collision which saw Guildford’s Ian Watters collide with the east end boards was enough to send the Giants Doctor to the tunnel door, but after a few tense moments the Forward was able to skate it off to relieved applause.
Shane Owen flashed a sensational glove off a Jordan Rowley mid slot wrister just shy of the 50 minute mark, made all the more impressive by the Kruise Reddick tip the puck took on its way towards goal.
The Flames threatened offensively inside the last ten minutes of the game, actually beating Shane Owen for a goal that was washed for offside- something which we can safely presume Owen knew already.
The Giants power play continued to battle, but come up short (Delay of Game served by Dunbar 52.06), and for the third time tonight took a penalty of their own to cancel the man advantage (Delay of Game, served by Smotherman 54.01).
What started as a Giants power play ended up a Guildford 5 on 3 (Garside, Hooking, 54.59). Paul Dixon sensed his opportunity, calling a timeout ahead of the drop, and it didn’t take long for Jesse Craige to thunder a one timer past Owen at 55.20. (2-1)
The SSE crowd sensed Belfast were on the back foot, coming to life inside the final five minutes.
Unfortunately, Mark Garside’s release from the penalty box was short lived- heading straight back in for a hugely unpopular interference call at 57.02.
Special Teams wizard Calle Ackered then took a roughing call as an absolutely frantic final few minutes unfurled- jawing off on his way to the box like Stone Cold Steve Austin in the nineties.
Despite the action going 4 on 4 , Guildford rolled the dice and pulled Travis Fullerton for the extra skater. Defenseman Jordan Rowley (as in, not goaltender Jordan Rowley) pulled off a stunning double save with his legs to deny Belfast the empty netter. The arena was electric. I swore a lot.
Mark Garside was finally released from the penalty box and was immediately in the mix, tearing down the left hand boards towards goal and being utterly trailed down by the face to the thundering complaints of the Teal Army, and no penalty call.
Two points against the Guildford Flames are two points well earned, and this season looks to be no different- Dixon has reassembled a dogged, physical, quality side who were in the fight right up until the final buzzer.
But it was Adam Keefe’s men who, a little bruised and battered, held on for the two points.
POST GAME INTERVIEWS
Liam Morgan Scoops AVFTB’s September POTM
Ben Lake on Flames Battle
Adam Keefe Talks Giants ‘Work In Progress’