The Belfast Giants set their 20th Anniversary celebrations into full swing ahead of faceoff on game one of a gigantic Sheffield Steelers double header.
Giants video maestro Neil Whiteside ensured there wasn’t a dry eye in the house with an intro montage of iconic moments from down our club’s great history.
Odyssey Trust CEO Robert Fitzpatrick took to the ice to welcome Day 1 Giants Rob Stewart, Shane Johnson and Marketing Manager Mark Brooks- who began life as a stick boy and today is a part of the beating heart of the organisation- to help with a ceremonial puck drop that was as much about those who came before as those who are still there.
The Giants themselves took to the ice in throwback jerseys harking back to their genesis in Belfast, and if the pre-game ceremony wasn’t enough to drive home how special this club is to this city- the sheer noise emanating from the stands surely did.
FIRST PERIOD: In Which I Almost Fall Out Of The Media Box
A healthy Steelers following was utterly silenced just 22 seconds in, when Liam Reddox skated the left side of the zone and ruthlessly sniped Wednesday shutout hero Tomas Duba high glove. (1-0)
Sheffield pressed on an early power play, but were denied by the type of sound penalty killing Kevin Raine goes to bed at night and dreams about.
A Mark Garside holding call six minutes deep kept Belfast on the back foot, eating decent pressure from the table topping Steelers. Bobby Farnham once again set about forechecking every single high puck clearance, reminding the home crowd of why he had won this month’s AVFTB Player of the Month by a landslide.
Jordan Smotherman almost bunted home a cross ice sauce ten minutes in, sending gasps around the arena.
Not to be outdone; Bobby Farnham hit Marek Troncinsky so hard the Czech had to climb the plexi and shove his soul back down into his body moments later, lighting up the stands and the teal jerseys on ice- who pressed significantly for the first time since Reddox’s opening goal.
A Paul Swindlehurst slashing penalty at 13.16, for whatever reason, brought a shorthanded Giants to life. Patrick Mullen, possessed by the spirit of Conor McDavid, dangled his way around the Steelers zone. Belfast swarmed.
Moments later, Mark Garside ripped the puck towards goal from the top of the right circle- finding the stick blade of Brian Ward on its way into the net.
The arena was electrified. I almost fell out of the media box. You just love to see it. (2-0)
A high intensity, high offense, big hitting Giants were playing pissed off. And long may it continue.
SECOND PERIOD: She Said Yes
I was about to write about how the second period had settled, much to the relief of every pounding heart in the building.
But at 24.45, Patrick Mullen decided he was bored- picking the puck up from behind Shane Owen’s net and dangling his way to the edge of the blue line, finishing a coast to coast spectacle in emphatic fashion. (3-0)
But the Giants weren’t ready to relent, and two minutes later the puck was in Duba’s net again. Patrick Mullen, playing his game of the season, entered the right side of the zone- feeding Brian Ward behind goal, who sauced the puck into the slot and into the path of a crashing Liam Reddox who utterly buried it for his second of the night. (4-0)
A Belfast power play (Kuukka, interference) was seconds old before the lamp was lit again from close range at 31.14- Ben Lake taking his turn to send the SSE crowd to its feet. (5-0)
With a commanding lead at the bottom of the period, the arena paused for a moment to celebrate love as a happy Belfast couple in the stands got engaged on the big screen.
I’ll tell you what I love. A big fat 5-0 lead.
THIRD PERIOD: You Six Two See It
Sheffield finally found their way onto the board five minutes into the final period- after hitting the post on an early power play and then being denied by a sensational Shane Owen pad save. Former Giant and penalty box aficionado Brendan Connolly lit the lamp and woke the Yorkshire crowd up for the first time since the game was 22 seconds old. (5-1)
The visitors worked their way inside and doubled their tally with 13.14 left in the game courtesy of Nikolai Lemtyugov- putting the entire tone of this game report in jeopardy. (5-2)
But a Ryan Lowney power play marker at 48.37, his first goal in Teal, guaranteed my pints for the night. (6-2)
These, friends, are simply the nights you live for.
AVFTB POST GAME INTERVIEWS
AVFTB POTM Bobby Farnham: “It means a lot to me that the fans appreciate the way I play.”
Giants Assistant Coach Jeff Mason: “We had some guys who played their best games of the season tonight.”
Words: Joel Neill
Audio: Joel Neill / AVFTB
Images: William Cherry / PressEye