The big news ahead of Sunday’s rematch between the Belfast Giants and Manchester Storm was that Stephen Murphy had been given the nod in goal for the home side, ahead of usual starter Shane Owen.
To his credit, the veteran Murphy had put in a good showing after coming off the bench in the second period Saturday night, but ahead of faceoff conversation buzzed about the nature and circumstance of the switch.
Patrick Mullen and Jesse Forsberg were also missing for Adam Keefe’s men, with the latter banished by (mmm)DOPS for one game following a slew footing incident Saturday night.
FIRST PERIOD: Sundays Are For The Hangovers
Stephen Murphy wasn’t overly troubled in the first ten minutes of the game, but nor did a slightly sluggish Giants create anything to threaten Matt Ginn.
Curtis Leonard had drawn his stick for a thundering one timer on a mid period power play (Thompson, hooking), but his twig exploded under the sheer pressure of belonging to Curtis Leonard.
As fragments of molten stick rained down around him, Leonard went for his backup weapon- throwing gloved hands into every Storm jersey that came his way on the turnover.
Belfast survived a Matt Pelech slashing call as a fairly uneventful first drew to a close.
SECOND PERIOD: Don’t Stop Pel-ievin
With the shot clock 13-4 in favour of the home side as the puck dropped for the middle period, Manchester’s forwards started to press- sending rubber forward at Stephen Murphy.
Belfast’s build up from the D zone through the neutral was there, but as has been the case, their offense was petering out on the blue line.
Zach Sullivan found the puck at his stick mid period, and in a world of space at the top of the zone unleashed a missile which cruised through traffic and into the back of Stephen Murphy’s net. (0-1)
Not… not ideal.
Belfast were offered a reprieve with a Grewal holding call at 30.29, but struggled to establish anything resembling a cycle in the Storm zone.
A good ol’ fashioned plexi delay (not Bobby Farnham) gave Giants fans a few minutes to stew on the Teal jersey in the penalty box for elbowing plus roughing (…Bobby Farnham).
Belfast had what felt like 100 hacks on goal in traffic on the edge of the Storm crease with around 3 left in the period, but to no avail. A Manchester counter attack was snuffed out by a committed Liam Reddox diving poke.
Finally, with a minute left in the period, the Giants got on the board. And who else but the Captain. Matt Pelech had stated on Saturday night that things would “be different” today, and while the game was far from over, the Teal faithful in the stands were simply happy to be given something to believe in. (1-1)
THIRD PERIOD: GHOST GOALS.
Curtis Hamilton drew an early power play for Belfast as an all or nothing third got underway. The Giants cycle and chances on net were much improved- something which lit the Sunday afternoon crowd up- but once again to no avail.
Patryk Wronka battled his way to the net in a dramatic rush five minutes in, blowing a tire on the left side of goal as the Storm closed in.
The Giants survived a penalty shot with 13.35 left in the game, Stephen Murphy tracking well and something something honestly don’t even worry about it because eleven seconds later BIG SMOOTH Jordan Smotherman took the puck from Ben Lake on the right hand side of the blue line, dipsy doodling his way into the slot and ripping a beauty of a wrist shot home for Belfast’s second. Scenes. (2-1)
It was far from smooth sailing after taking the lead, and Belfast found themselves tasked with killing three successive penalties.
Most bafflingly, referee Dean Smith summarised that Liam Reddox had embellished being hauled down by the face- offering him a few minutes in the penalty box to reflect on having the audacity to get mugged in open ice.
Minutes ticked away. Belfast finished checks and committed hard to shutting this one down.
Matt Ginn stayed on the bench following a Storm timeout with 1:15 left in the game, and the visiting side iced the extra skater.
Jordan Smotherman tore off on the breakaway towards an empty net, drawing a penalty and earning a goal without a puck even touching the net. A spooky spooky ghost goal. Happy Halloween. (3-1)
There was just enough time for Bobby Farnham to take a 2+10 for slashing as the clock wound down, but find me a soul in the SSE arena who cared as the Belfast Giants secured a 3 point weekend and a crucial regulation win.
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