Despite putting 68 shots on the board, the Stena Line Belfast Giants were stunned by the visiting Dundee Stars, 3-4, in their second Challenge Cup game of the season.
Stars goaltender Alex Leclerc stood on his head, stopping 65 of the 68 shots the Giants fired at him, while Dundee made good on their few chances, picking up four goals on 18 shots.
The loss puts the Giants at a 1-1 record in Challenge Cup play. Coupled with last Sunday’s loss in Manchester to the Storm, the Giants have now lost back-to-back games.
Frustrating First Period
Despite dominating the Stars and carrying the play for virtually all of the first period, it was Dundee who skated into the intermission with a 1-0 lead.
After a chippy, back-and-forth start to the match, the ice started to tilt in Belfast’s favour. The Giants were buzzing around the Stars’ zone, firing quality chances at goaltender Alex Leclerc left, right, and centre. It appeared the Giants were going to break through when they were handed their third power-play of the frame, but some sloppy execution in the offensive zone led to the Stars taking the lead with a short-handed goal of their own.
The 1-0 score at the end of the period wasn’t represented by the difference on the shot clock, as the Giants led the Stars 22 to 8 in terms of shots on goal after 20 minutes.
Curtis Hamilton Breaks Through
The second period featured more of the same frustration for the Giants as Leclerc pushed aside shot after shot despite relentless Giants’ pressure.
Finally, just over halfway through the game, the Giants broke through. Curtis Hamilton took a pass from Kevin Raine at the top of the face-off circle and ripped a wrist-shot through Leclerc at 30:30 to knot the game at 1-1. It was the Giants’ 34th shot of the night.
Hamilton’s goal gives him a three-game goal-scoring streak against domestic opponents to start his Giants career.
The frustration for the Giants continued later on in the second. On their first shot of the period at Dufour deked past Shane Owen with a beautiful goal to give the Stars the lead back.
This time, the Giants didn’t take as long to respond. Patryk Wronka found Ben Lake at 37:37 to knot the game back up at 2-2. Lake’s goal represented his first as a member of the Giants in domestic play.
The shots at the end of the second period, again, didn’t represent the score on the board. The shots favoured the Giants a whopping 42 to 11. If not for some incredible goaltending from Leclerc, the score could have looked very different.
Final Period Comeback Falls Short
At 48:46, Shane Owen made his biggest stop of the game. A turnover in the offensive zone resulted in a Dundee Stars breakaway, but Owen flashed the leather to keep the score tied at 2-2.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t do it twice. A few minutes later at 51:22, another offensive zone turnover led to a breakaway for Anthony Beauregard who dangled Owen for the beautiful go-ahead goal.
Unlike in the previous two periods, the Giants weren’t able to answer back. They swarmed the net and produced multiple chances in the third, but an empty-net, short-handed goal from Beauregard at 58:25.
At 59:37, the Brian Ward was able to make it a one-goal game again, but the empty-net insurance goal ended up being the difference for the Stars.
Stena Line Belfast Giants 3-4 Dundee Stars
Giants Player of the Game
#70 Curtis Hamilton
The Giants return to Elite League action on Sunday against the Nottingham Panthers, face-off 4pm. Tickets are now available online now through ticketmaster.ie.