Last night’s single goal thriller between the Belfast Giants and Cardiff Devils was played on a knife edge.
I’m pretty sure I could still feel the building reverberating from the thundering noise of the night before, as the Teal and Red Armies took their seats for Sunday’s rematch.
Elgin Pearce’s power play goal was the only thing separating the sides in a low scoring, high energy classic- and as the lights went out, both sets of fans braced themselves for another emotional rollercoaster.
FIRST PERIOD: In Which Blair Riley Gets Punched In The Jaw
The sides remained unchanged from Saturday- with Liam Reddox the sole scratch in an otherwise healthy Giants lineup.
An early Sam Duggan delay of game call in the Devils zone at 2:17 sent Belfast onto their first power play of the night.
Despite an extremely strong cycle and a handful of rockets fired in the direction of Ben Bowns in the Devils goal, action continued at even strength.
Belfast’s pressure earned them the lion’s share of zone time in the opening ten minutes, but once again very little was separating the sides.
After some jawing at the bench, Liam ‘The Kid’ Morgan threw the gloves down and locked up with former Giants Captain Blair Riley, throwing a hail of fists and bringing the god damned roof down in the process.
A fairly even tilt was halted by the linesmen when Morgan- still swinging- had his jersey pulled over his head, and the 21 year old headed for the bench completely unaware of the years and years of highlight videos he had just cemented his place in.
An Elgin Pearce holding call at 16:53 didn’t last long- when Joey Haddad ripped a shot from the right side of the zone, beating Shane Owen low glove side. Despite a goal review (insert laptop joke of your choice here), the goal stood. (0-1)
Tensions began to flare as Belfast took to the power play for the final minute and a half of the period, as Cardiff’s goal scorer headed to the box for interference.
SECOND PERIOD: Ice Tilt
David Goodwin had a lively start to the middle period, getting a shot off towards Bowns’ left post before the sides returned to full strength.
Belfast’s energy seemed to dip for the first time this weekend as the game neared its halfway mark- the puck began to linger in Shane Owen’s zone for extended stretches, and Cardiff’s forward lines began to noticeably work their way inside.
Any Giants attack, meanwhile, was held largely to the fringes- and a Matt Pelech late hit call at 30:36 was further pressure to absorb.
It wasn’t until the last minute of the period that Belfast put anything coherent together in the zone, and the end of a creatively limited 20 minutes was a welcome relief for players, bench and fans alike.
There was some comfort to be taken in the home side weathering the storm defensively, but a shot of energy was required ahead of a big final period.
THIRD PERIOD: A Good Weekend For The Unders
The Giants had a power play opportunity a minute and a half into the third, when Shaone Morrissonn (that honestly is how you spell it) sat for roughing. Despite a decent initial cycle, however, their lack of offensive spark continued.
A mildly staggering seven minutes passed without a single stoppage before an Elgin Pearce effort was covered up by Ben Bowns. Suddenly, with 12 minutes left- there was a sense of increased urgency.
Masi Marjamaki was shown the door for a hit on David Goodwin in the the D zone with 11:35 left. Cardiff’s #15 left the ice under a hail of boos after being assessed a 5+Game for checking to the head.
Goodwin was eventually able to leave the ice on his feet after treatment from the Giants medical staff, and Adam Keefe’s men embarked on a critical power play.
After decent pressure, the 5 minute man advantage was halted with 1:51 of power play left on the clock when Brian Ward headed to the box for tripping.
Ben Bowns was able to stop back to back deflected shots as the Giants worked their way into the zone with around four minutes left.
Shane Owen headed to the bench with a minute and a half remaining and Belfast iced the extra skater.
Adam Keefe called a time out after a stoppage seconds later.
In one of the most painful moments of my entire life, the puck rang off the post and stopped dead following an effort from Patrick Mullen. After what felt like ten years, it was sent back out into the zone and Belfast continued to pour forward frantically, swinging lumber at anything and everything.
But their last roll of the dice wasn’t to be, and in a great weekend for the Unders, Cardiff split the weekend with a 0-1 victory.
AVFTB POST GAME INTERVIEWS
Adam Keefe: “A bit of a heartbreaker for everybody involved tonight.”
Liam Morgan: “It was a hard fought war out there.”