Belfast Giants 6-1 Nottingham Panthers
As far as early season games go, it didn’t get much bigger for the Belfast Giants than Sunday afternoon’s encounter with the Nottingham Panthers at the SSE Arena.
A rejuvenated Giants had returned home from breaking Glasgow hearts in the Challenge Cup the night before, looking to continue their surge up the EIHL table.
Waiting for them, a dominant Nottingham side playing great hockey under new Head Coach Rich Chernomaz, they themselves only a matter of hours removed from dispatching their Yorkshire rivals the Sheffield Steelers.
Not only a critical 2 league points on the line for both, but a chance for the Belfast Giants to banish the slump once and for all- a dry spell which had started a number of weeks earlier at the hands of a relentless Nottingham.
To up the stakes even further, Patrick Dwyer had joined Jim Vandermeer and Colin Shields on the injured list- having seemingly picked up a knock in Glasgow the night before.
The Giants started slow in the first period- an early powerplay (Olsen 2 min interference) was cancelled out when Hunter Bishop sat for hooking with 13.56 left in the period.
Nottingham quickly pounced, Guptil taking advantage of a bad bounce past Curtis Leonard and firing high into the open back door with Beskorowany drawn out right. (Bel 0-1 Not)
Despite Dustin Johner working hard and drawing two Giants Powerplays, the goal Belfast and the 4000+ in the arewas not to come in the first period.
The second period was possibly the most dominant hockey the Belfast Giants have played this season. Kendall McFaull set the tone five minutes in, firing home his first of the season after ploughing into the right hand side of the zone and firing high left. Assist #25 + #77. (Bel 1-1 Not)
A #27 scoring a clutch goal past the Nottingham Panthers. Enough to bring a tear to your eye.
From here the Giants’ dominance continued- the Panthers D seemingly unable to keep the Giants forward lines at bay.
Blair Riley was next to strike, finding a tip off a Gelinas shot during a Giants interference power play. The Giants Captain continuing to enjoy a fantastic couple of weeks and adding another goal to the tally. Assist: #5 (Bel 2-1 Not)
With 12.29 left in the period, David Rutherford went to the box for a 2+10 for Boarding- something which the now dominating Giants seemed unphased by, killing the penalty before Francis Beauvillier fired home for the Giants 3rd of the period. Assist: #15 (Bel 3-1 Not)
It didn’t stop there- around three minutes later Josh Roach connected with Jonathan Ferland and Lewis Hook for the period’s 4th goal. Hook’s point an entirely deserved reward for an all-in performance. Nottingham, at this point, seemed out of ideas. (Bel 4-1 Not)
Rich Chernomaz’s team were surely relieved to hear the second period klaxon. A chance to regroup and behin chipping away at the hole they had found themselves in.
The onslaught, however, only continued.
Following a cagey start to the final period, Hunter Bishop broke free from the neutral zone and fired hard and low past Mike Garnett from just past the blue line with 14.13 left in the game. Assist: #21 (Bel 5-1 Not)
A Nottingham power play shortly after was successfully killed (McFaull, holding), before a pair of twos for roughing (McFaull, Biggs) and a Billingsley cross check which put the Giants on the powerplay. Both netminders, however, stood tall.
With 2.53 in the game, the arena erupted for probably one of the hardest working Giants of the game, Lewis Hook. His persistence and net crashing rewarded with a close range clap past Garnett’s low right. Assist: #91 (Bel 6-1 Not)
The Giants saw out the game playing aggressive, shut down hockey. Looking an entire gear sharper and more dangerous than even during the previous week’s success.
What a way to tip your hat to the home crowd before the upcoming mammoth road trip.