The Stena Line Belfast Giants returned home from a difficult weekend on the road for back-to-back home games against the Manchester Storm. After a spirited affair couldn’t be solved in regulation or overtime, the Giants would end up getting dropped 4-3 in the shootout.
Fired Up First
At the tail end of a penalty to Matt Pelech, Bobby Farnham picked up the puck in the neutral zone, drove past the Storm defender, earned himself a partial breakaway, and tucked a cheeky goal between goaltender Matt Ginn’s pads to take an early 1-0 lead. The short-handed goal was Farnham’s second goal in league play on the season and fourth across all fixtures.
The crowd really got into the game at 11:37 when Jordan Smotherman dropped the gloves with Declan Balmer. As the Giants carried the play, the Storm tried to keep up with physical play, but Belfast answered the bell by maintaining a fearless speed and energy in the offensive zone.
The Giants skated out of the first period tied at 1-1, though the score flattered the Storm. Belfast carried the play through the entirety of the first frame, outshooting Manchester 10-3. Amazing goaltending by Ginn and a last-minute goal at 19:42 kept things tied.
Manchester Storms Back
The Giants grabbed back their load early in the second. After high-sticking penalty taken by John Negrin of the Storm put the Giants on the power-play, Brian Ward deflected a point shot from Jordan Smotherman past a screened Ginn to make the game 2-1. The goal was Ward’s first in league play and his seventh on the season across all games.
The lead was short-lived. The Storm would battle back to take a lead of their own with back-to-back goals in under a minute of action. The three goals allowed on five shots saw Shane Owen replaced in the net as Stephen Murphy would come in as a replacement.
The Giants would head into the second intermission down 3-2 though holding a sturdy 18-13 lead on the shot-clock.
After struggling to find the back of the net in the first half of the third period, the Giants finally broke through. At 49:24, Ben Lake took a pass from Liam Morgan, dangled his way through the zone, and roofed a shot over top of Ginn. Lake had been all over the offensive zone all game and he finally managed to bury his second goal in league play at a key point in the game.
The Giants pushed hard to grab the win in regulation but couldn’t solve Ginn, who stood tall all game. With just 10 seconds left, Lake set up Morgan in front of the net but Ginn stoned him cold. A few seconds later, Ginn got some help from the crossbar, as Jean Dupuy rang what could have been a last-second game-winner off the iron.
Belfast and Manchester would head to overtime tied 3-3.
Though the Giants carried play through the first half of the overtime period, Murphy had to make his two biggest saves of the night to keep the game alive. He stoned a Manchester forward point-blank before diving across the net to rob yet another shot right along the goal line. The teams would go on to exchange quality scoring chances but both goaltenders stood tall.
The game wouldn’t be won in overtime so the Giants and Storm went to a shootout to break the draw.
Brian Ward fumbled the puck on the first shot and Ginn turned it aside easily. After Manchester went up 1-0, Ben Lake scored on the Giants’ second shot to knot things up. The Storm would score again on their second opportunity, to go up 2-1. With a chance to tie the shootout in the third round, Jordan Smotherman beat Ginn, but hit the post. Murphy stopped Manchester’s next chance, but Curtis Hamilton wasn’t able to tie the shootout in the fourth round. With a chance to win the game, Jared Aulin went in and roofed a backhand over Murphy.
Stena Line Belfast Giants 3-4 Manchester Storm (Shootout)
Giants Player of the Game
#46 Bobby Farnham (1 Goal)
Both sides do it all over again on Sunday in Belfast – Giants vs Storm face-off is 4pm at The SSE Arena, Belfast. Tickets are now available online at Ticketmaster.ie.