The leadup to Belfast v Manchester Round 2 came with the news from the EIHL’s Department of Player Safety that the Storm would be without #9 Luke Moffatt- suspended for two games following his encounter with Patrick Dwyer on Friday night.
More specifically- his swinging helmet’s encounter with Patrick Dwyer’s head.
The puck dropped with a buzzing SSE Arena expecting fireworks. The Belfast Giants seemed to pick up right where they left off- with a number of sure-fire chances going begging. The Manchester Storm were here to play another defensive road game, looking for any chance they could on the break.
The Giants had appeared to switch up the system a little bit in order to find a way through a crowded Storm zone, working the back door to good effect.
It was 9.15 in the first when the deadlock was broken by Patrick Dwyer, off a cross-crease pass from Kyle Baun. (1-0)
The Belfast Giants continued to dominate puck possession, with Manchester very much being kept in the game by goaltender Matt Ginn.
The first period ended with a few fireworks, as Kendall McFaull drew 2 minutes for a scuffle near the benches.
Patrick Dwyer found the net again in the early second period, getting on the end of a Kyle Baun dangle and snipe- but the goal was waved off due to the player in the crease.
Shortly before the half hour mark, Dustin Johner broked into the Manchester zone and fired off a wrist shot which lasered its way into the roof of Matt Ginn’s goal. Hunter Bishop with the assist (2-0)
It was Tyler Beskorowany’s turn to pull off a number of highlight reel saves, as the Belfast Giants found themselves on back to back Penalty Kills.
With 30 seconds left in the second period… it got interesting again.
In the same West End corner that had boiled over last night, the players paired off for a frank and open exchange of opinion. By the time referees Andy Dalton and Blake Copeland had cleaned up the mess, David Rutherford sat for 2 minutes for roughing and the Manchester Storm’s Mike Hammond sat for 4 minutes- roughing and interference.
The Belfast Giants were to hit their stride in the third period, with consecutive goals from David Rutherford and Josh Roach within two minutes of each other (4-0). Adam Keefe’s coaching tweaks finally opening up some space in front of Storm goaltender Matt Ginn.
Apart from the usual physical edge, and a few afters, the Manchester Storm offered very little in the way of meaningful attack, and as time expired the SSE Arena rose to its feet to applaud their team into the Christmas break.
Merry Christmas, Giants fans!
Words: Joel Neill
Audio: Joel Neill / AVFTB
Images: Darren Kidd / PressEye