Belfast Giants took to the SSE Arena ice for the first of their games in the IIHF Continental Cup Final against Belarus side HK Gomel. Gomel qualified having finished 3rd in their league with Champions Grodno and runners up Minsk moving into the CHL.
Giants gave a 3rd debut to Chris Higgins, returning for his first game of professional hockey in almost 2 years. With Tyler Beskorowany in goal for the home side and Roman Bobariko for Gomel.
Tone was set by the officials early with Giants Patrick Dwyer being called for hooking after only 38 seconds of the game. Yet shorthanded it was the Giants who dominated the play.
And so it was for the opening session with the Giants outshooting Gomel 15-4, and it was David Rutherford who was to opening the scoring. A close tip on a Curtis Leonard slap across the ice put the puck through Bobariko’s 5 hole and into the net (17:54) to make it 1-0.
Into the second period and Gomel came out fighting, Darcy Murphy taking a big hit in the opening minutes. But the Giants were to double the lead soon after, a very nice move from Patrick Dwyer who created space with a dip of the shoulder to shoot across Bobariko and into the goal to make it 2-0 (21:58).
Frustration was creeping into the Gomel game, they started to leave a few sticks and hits in as the Giants continued to dominate the play. Bobariko was, by a great deal, the more active of the two goalkeepers as the Giants peppered the Gomel goal through the period but couldn’t find another way through.
Into the final period and the Giants continued to dominate in the Gomel zone and put pucks on the opposition net and it was only a matter of time before that pressure told on Bobariko.
Darcy Murphy was to extend the lead further on a no-look pass from David Rutherford to make it 3-0 to the Giants (44:02)
And with just under 10 minutes to go Colin Shields chalked up his first goal since returning to the Giants side after injury to make it 4-0 (50:20).
Giant proceeded to rotate through the lines quickly in order to protect the legs as the game rumbled on but the games goals had not finished.
With Kutsyr sitting 2 mins for a High Stick it was hard work around the goal by Patrick Dwyer to put the puck by Kyle Baun. Baun’s attempt close in on Bobriko couldn’t beat the Gomel goalie, but Chris Higgins was “Johnny on the Spot” to cap off a Man of the Match performance and fire home his first of the season and the Belfast Giants 5th of the night (57:41).
Kendall McFaull was to give the Belarussian side hope in the dying minutes with a holding the stick penalty, but the Giants held firm to shut them out and take a commanding victory in their first game of the Final.
We move into tomorrows games with the Giants reacquainting themselves with GKS Katowice who defeated Adam Keefe’s side in the final game of Group E.
Words: Patrick Smyth Pictures: William Cherry / PressEye