The sense of anticipation following last night’s 6-2 dismantling of the league leading Sheffield Steelers was palpable, as the Belfast Giants took to the ice for their second night of 20th Anniversary Season celebrations.
Captain Matt Pelech was dressed after missing last night’s clash, however Kevin Raine was missing from an otherwise healthy lineup, after exiting the game early on Friday night. I know this for sure because he is currently, at this moment, standing behind me.
In addition, Ben Lake did not reappear after taking warm ups.
FIRST PERIOD: Teddy Toss Anxiety
In a mirror image of Friday night’s game, Sheffield drew first blood early- when Michael Davies got in close and sent Shane Owen sliding into the back of his own net just over 30 seconds in. Despite a glimmer of hope in the shape of a review, the goal stood. (0-1)
The atmosphere quickly developed into something of a powder keg, with a washed off Giants goal on a successive power play (Brocklehurst, Cross Checking), and a number of skirmishes following the whistle.
Belfast came agonisingly close on the six minute mark, when Curtis Hamilton fed Jordan Smotherman in the zone, who promptly rang the inside of the post before staying inside and forcing a world class leg save from Tomas Duba.
Very little time was spent in the neutral zone during a volatile first ten minutes, with the action fast paced and end to end.
Mark Garside sat for slashing with three minutes and change left in the period, putting Belfast on the back foot and leaving the Teal Army’s Teddy Toss Night anxiety hanging in the air for a little bit longer.
SECOND PERIOD: One Big Penalty Kill
Shane Owen kept his side in the mix during the opening minutes of the period, turning away decent Sheffield pressure both at even strength and 4 on 4. A much improved Steelers from Friday night’s display continued to battle, having outshot Belfast 8-13 in the first.
David Goodwin headed to the box for slashing at 24.34, continuing a frustrating string of back to back penalties that had kept the Giants almost constantly on the kill since the last five minutes of the opening period.
Jordan Smotherman was next to sit- taking a bench minor for too many men after hopping the bench mid change and controlling the puck at 29.39.
The Giants fourth kill of the second period, and fifth overall, came courtesy of Ciaran Long at 32.04 and a hooking call.
I’m by no means a Coach, but I’m confident this game is much easier if you have five guys on the ice.
Curtis Hamilton and Bobby Farnham each found their way into the zone and had decent mid range efforts as the period entered its final five. The former scuppered by a broken stick, and the latter the glove of Duba.
A wild scramble in front of Shane Owen brought the second period to a close, with Belfast still unable to break the goose egg.
THIRD PERIOD: A Tough Look
Mark Garside, along with the vast majority of the arena, were utterly incensed with his holding call behind Shane Owen at 41.40- extending the home side’s penalty box woes even further with the Giants’ sixth kill of the game.
Back at even strength, and with 15 minutes left in the game, Sheffield doubled their lead. Former Giants D man David Phillips wristed the puck from the right side of the blue line, firing through traffic and beating Owen glove side. (0-2)
Belfast could do little other than chip and chase on a mid period power play, as my Teddy Toss Anxiety reached dangerous levels.
Marek Troncinsky provided the Giants with another power play opportunity with 8 minutes to go, heading to the box for a cross check in the Sheffield zone. But despite a wild offensive cycle, the home side couldn’t convert.
A plexi malfunction with 6:08 left in the game, unfortunately, became Teddy Toss time.
A great initiative helping amazing, deserving kids and a wonderful display of charity from the Teal Army… but let’s face it… sending them over the plexi on anything other than a goal is a tough look.
A Matt Pelech cross checking penalty at 56:56 sealed the deal, when Shane Owen headed for the Giants bench in favour of the extra skater and Marc Vallerand sent the puck into an empty net. (0-3)
Owen headed for the bench again inside the last minute on a Giants power play, handing Belfast a 6 on 4 advantage- but in the dying seconds another turnover sent the puck into an empty net again from long range, courtesy of Eric Meland. (0-4)
AVFTB POST GAME INTERVIEWS
Adam Keefe: “You can’t take that many penalties. It’s that simple.”
Jordan Smotherman: “Stay out of the box and tonight’s a different story for us.”
Liam Morgan: “I think we’re going to come around.”
Words: Joel Neill
Audio: Joel Neill / AVFTB
Images: William Cherry / PressEye