The Belfast Giants took to the ice on Sunday with the opportunity to take six points out of a possible eight since Monday, something that many in the arena would have bitten your hand off for at the conclusion of the week’s first game of four- a home loss to the last placed Dundee Stars.
The Giants had certainly rallied since then, taking a come-from-behind win on the road against the Stars Thursday, before last night’s 4-1 thrashing of Coventry.
Still- despite their heroics so far- many, many ill advised Sunday evening pints rested on their ability to get the job done tonight. It’s me. I’m talking about me.
With Stephen Murphy starting in goal, Belfast had the luxury of an extra import outskater- meaning that with Liam Morgan back in the lineup they were only missing Patrick Mullen from an otherwise full bench.
FIRST PERIOD: Long Runs The Fox
Curtis Hamilton found himself alone in the zone around a minute and a half in, perhaps snapping his shot a little too soon from the left circle as the cavalry arrived behind him.
With Matt Pelech in the box for a high stick, Coventry struck first. Charlie Corcoran’s lateral pass from right circle to left was picked up by Luke Ferrara- who took his time in sniping a screened Stephen Murphy near side at 3:07. (0-1)
Much like Monday’s loss to Dundee, Belfast were giving up odd man rushes too easily, despite a decent press and good zone time. They weren’t playing badly- they were just being caught cold by a sharp Blaze counter.
Sure enough- the visitors extended their advantage at 5:04 courtesy of a stretch pass to Andrew Johnston at the blue line, who thundered down the slot in possession and dangled Murphy from the edge of the paint. (0-2)
Belfast’s first power play of the night served up very little in the way of offensive threat- and even at 5 on 5 Coventry were doing a much better job of keeping the hosts to the outside in the zone- and clogging up any threat from the point.
Despite a shaky start to the Giants’ second man-advantage, Ben Lake found himself with the puck on the edge of the crease, pivoting and sending it home on the backhand with a beautiful finish at 14:55. (1-2)
Adam Keefe’s men had found success last night with their physicality, something which was noticeably ramped up after the drop. A rampaging Rickard Palmberg looked likely to drop the gloves in the D zone, before a a FIRED UP Ciaran Long stepped in out of nowhere to throw hands with Justin Harmonic- FIRING UP all and sundry in the process.
Palmberg’s 2 minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct was evened up by a Ferrara diving call, and as a lively period wound to a close it felt like Belfast were very much back in the mix.
SECOND PERIOD: Pints In Jeopardy
The Giants had clocked decent zone time in the first ten minutes of the middle period, albeit to little avail as the Blaze continued to do a much better job than last night of closing ranks at the back.
A Liam Reddox tripping call at 31:58 was to prove costly. Stephen Murphy didn’t get all of an Andrew Johnston shot from the low right circle- the puck zipping up and into the roof to restore the Blaze’s two goal cushion. (1-3)
It was a goal that seemed to charge Coventry- who poured forward, extending their lead even further courtesy of Matt Pohlkamp at 35:56. (1-4)
That’s it. That’s the report.
THIRD PERIOD: Dry January
With time now of the essence, Belfast had to eat a penalty kill when Rickard Palmberg was called for holding at 41:23.
Luke Ferrara’s fourth minor penalty of the night for slashing in the 45th minute was a sorely needed power play opportunity- but yet again the visitors’ frustrating road game limited any grade A offense.
On top of a lack of spark in the zone, honestly, it had just been one of those nights where the puck would NOT bounce in favour of a Teal jersey.
Do you know how hard it is to say anything entertaining about a game like this?
Elgin Pearce sat for roughing as the game edged into its final three minutes, sealing the deal for Coventry and its travelling support… who provided the only noise in the building aside from the click clack of sticks on ice.
The final shot clock of Belfast 44-18 Coventry told the story of this one.
When it’s not your night, it’s not your night.
AVFTB POST GAME INTERVIEWS
Adam Keefe: “In terms of four games in the week, Coventry are in the same boat as us, and we’re at home. There’s no excuse.”
Ciaran Long: Rickard Palmberg “is a skilled guy. He’s come in hot for us. He’s scoring goals… I didn’t want him having a fight.”
Words: Joel Neill
Audio: Joel Neill / AVFTB
Images: William Cherry / PressEye