The Stena Line Belfast Giants won their first of this weekend’s home double header against the Coventry Blaze. A double from Rickard Palmberg plus strikes from Curtis Leonard and Elgin Pearce gave the Giants the 4-1 win. The two teams will return to The SSE Arena on Sunday, face-off 4pm, for the weekend’s second Elite League clash.
The Giants remain in third place with 40 points from 31 games, tied on points with the Cardiff Devils who have played two games less and five points behind the Sheffield Steelers in first place with 45 points from 33 games.
Shane Owen started in the Belfast net and posted 25 saves with the Giants missing Pat Mullen and Liam Morgan.
The Giants would open the scoring at 7:53 when Curtis Leonard blazed a slap-shot past C.J. Motte. David Goodwin was deep in Coventry’s zone and he worked the puck out into the slot where Leonard would bust in from the point to wire a one-timer into the back of the net. The goal was Leonard’s second of the season in league play.
Shortly after, at 10:55, the Giants would double their lead. Leonard, fresh off of scoring the first goal of the game, sauced a pass from the face-off circle to Elgin Pearce who made no mistake at the side of the net. The goal was Pearce’s fourth in just seven games since joining the Giants.
Belfast’s big first period didn’t stop there. At 13:18, Matt Pelech found Rickard Palmberg for a power-play conversion to make the score 3-0. The goal prompted the Blaze to take a timeout and make a goaltending switch.
The Giants would skate into the first intermission with a commanding 3-0 lead while also boasting a 13-5 lead on the shot clock.
The good times kept rolling for the Giants in the second period. At 24:01, Jordan Smotherman received a pass from the point, deked out a Blaze defender, and slipped a backhand pass across the slot to Palmberg who roofed a shot over a sprawling Jordan Hedley. The goal was Palmberg’s second of the game and fifth since joining the Giants.
A few minutes later, Shane Owen faced his biggest test of the game. Ross Venus got sprung on a partial break and Matt Pelech dragged him down, resulting in a penalty shot. Venus came in and tried to deke out Owen, but the Giants’ goaltender tracked the puck the whole way and slammed the door to maintain the 4-0 cushion.
Coventry would get themselves back into the game at 34:00 when Dillion Eichstadt wired a seeing-eye writer from the point that fooled a screened Owen. That was all the Blaze would manage in the frame as the Giants held a 4-1 lead heading into the second intermission.
Closing The Door
The 4-1 lead would turn into a 4-1 victory after the Giants slammed the door shut in the final frame. Palmberg had a few chances to complete his second hat-trick as a member of the Giants, but he couldn’t get a puck past Hedley.
Stena Line Belfast Giants 4-1 Coventry Blaze
Player of the Game
#10 Curtis Leonard (1 Goal + 1 Assist)
Both teams will do it all over again on Sunday as the puck drops 4pm at The SSE Arena for Giants vs Blaze – Round #2.
Next weekend the Giants face the Sheffield Steelers at home on Friday before travelling to Guildford to take on the Flames on Sunday 12th January.
Tickets for those Giants home games are available online now at ticketmaster.ie.