After a whirlwind start to the season in Europe, it was back to porridge for the Belfast Giants as Zack Fitzgerald’s new look Glasgow Clan arrived in town, looking to even up a 1-2 start to their domestic season.
Ahead of faceoff, the Giants 18/19 League Championship banner was unveiled to a huge ovation. That Championship side now barely recognisable from the faces along the home side’s blue line- but a moment for the new recruits to see and appreciate the prize at the end of the road.
The Giants were missing Liam Reddox and Jesse Forsberg as the puck dropped. Glasgow meanwhile were in town without Brits Craig Moore and Jack Musil.
The Giants threw plenty forward on new Glasgow goaltender Patrick Killeen, fresh off a tough season in Milton Keynes where he more than shone among difficult circumstances.
The Giants had a fruitless power play opportunity five minutes into the game courtesy of a Matt Haywood slashing call, but their high press persisted at full strength.
The Giants maintained good pressure on Glasgow throughout the first ten minutes, seriously limiting their offensive zone time and finishing hits with venom behind Killeen.
Belfast’s already-steadfast Kill unit had their first outing at 12.23 following a lively Bobby Farnham charging penalty.
Not content with just shutting the door on Glasgow, Lewis Hook forced a turnover near the red line, tearing off down the gut towards Killeen. His shot rebounded off the Clan tendy’s leg, with Brian Ward crashing down behind him to bury the loose puck. (1-0 SHG) (Assist: Hook)
SOG: Bel 16-5 Gla
Belfast returned to the power play a minute into the second period when Matt Stanisz was sent for holding. Jordan Smotherman wasted no time, almost immediately pushing the puck home from the edge of the crease in a frantic goal mouth scramble at 22.20. (Assist: Wronka, Pelech) (2-0)
An attacking Liam Morgan played the puck across the Clan zone at 25.14, finding a lightning fast Curtis Hamilton blade in the slot with very little time for Killeen to react as the puck whizzed past him high blocker. (3-0)
Belfast found themselves facing a 5 on 3 kill mid period, after taking a too many men call (served by Ben Lake), followed by Patryk Wronka making his feelings known post-whistle, promptly joining Lake in the box for Unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Clan swarmed, with Scott Pitt burying the loose puck off a post-to-post rebound at 31.07. (3-1)
Belfast’s woes were compounded when Mark Garside sat for interference at 34.31, but this time the kill unit (with a little help from a sensational Shane Owen stop) stood tall.
With a hot crowd behind them, the Giants struck again. Brian Ward curling the puck around traffic in the crease towards Liam Morgan who made no mistake about his finish from close range at 37.34 (4-1)
Scott Pitt sat for slashing at 39.09, and the Giants closed out the middle period with a minute and change of power play.
SOG: Bel 29-13 Gla
Ciaran Long sent Glasgow onto the power play at 42.49 with an interference call, but once again the Giants killed off any danger.
The same Ciaran Long was on the business end of a Brian Ward wraparound in front of Killeen minutes later, striking the Giants 5th goal at 47.49 (Assist: Ward, Raine) (5-1).
Lewis Hook headed to the box for slashing at 49.43. Despite a solid Glasgow cycle, the PK unit once again prevailed with help from another sensational Shane Owen leg save- the Belfast tendy going post to post to cover a low wrist shot from the right circle.
Paul Swindlehurst took what could be viewed as an avoidable holding penalty at 54.50, as a busy night for the Giants penalty kill rolled on.
There was just enough time for Belfast to notch their sixth, with a thundering Curtis Leonard one timer from the right hand side of the zone at the top of the final minute. (Assist: Wronka, Smotherman) (6-1).
Opening night. Statement made.
Words: Joel Neill
Audio: Joel Neill / AVFTB
Images: William Cherry / PressEye