Giants Hit Top Form to Defend Challenge Cup by Beating Flyers
The Stena Line Belfast Giants defended their Viaplay Challenge Cup title after they defeated the Fife Flyers 9-3 in the final in front of a sold-out SSE Arena, Belfast.
Nine different players scored for Adam Keefe's side, who have now won four of the last five Cups, on an unforgettable night in Belfast which saw the home side lift the first trophy of the season.
The Giants pulled ahead with just 3:25 on the clock, surviving an early scare when Mikael Johansson's sharp angle shot hit the post, but instead they went down the other way and a quick passing move saw Steve Owre and Scott Conway set up captain David Goodwin for the opener. (1-0)
Conway provided a golden chance for Grant Cooper, putting the puck on the winger's stick right in front of goal but he could only hit the post, and then they couldn't take advantage of a charging call against Kamerin Nault, drawing a blank on the powerplay.
But when Mark Cooper was boxed for hooking, Donovan Neuls was there to strike shorthanded as he went on the breakaway with Gabe Bast and he was able to tap-in the pass across from the defenceman at 11:33. (2-0)
And Owre continued a hot run of form when he grabbed the third at 17:56, the winger carving up the centre of the ice and, although he fanned on the initial shot, he was able to recover and produce the finish to cap off a dominant period. (3-0)
The Giants picked up where they left off in the second period and grabbed their fourth at 24:33 on the powerplay, Matt McLeod taking advantage of a slashing call against Bari McKenzie by stabbing in the rebound after Sam Ruopp's shot came back off the backboards. (4-0)
Grant Cooper had another huge chance on the breakaway as he was set through on Owen by Ben Lake, who was just emerging from the box after a roughing penalty, however he couldn't beat the former Giants netminder with his shot.
Instead, the Flyers got on the board shortly after as a scrappy play at the crease eventually broke back to captain Jonas Emmerdahl and he fired the one-timer into the top corner from the right circle at 28:40. (4-1)
Fife were close to adding another when Kamerin Nault had a wraparound chance but was somehow denied by Tyler Beskorowany, but they did grab a second when a nice passing play saw Chris Lawrence and Brayden Sherbinin set up Janne Kivilahti for the tap-in at 38:18. (4-2)
It looked like that could spark a comeback, especially when Mark Garside was penalised for hooking shortly afterwards, but instead the Giants grabbed their second shorthanded goal at 39:46 as Mark Cooper delivered the pass to Lake and he deked around Owen to finish. (5-2).
The Flyers once again made it a two-goal game just 22 seconds after the restart as Janne Laakkonen grabbed their third, capitalising on a Beskorowany mistake to tap it into the net for the powerplay goal. (5-3)
But from there it was all Belfast and Ciaran Long's fine one-timer from the left circle off a cross-ice pass from Owre restored their three-goal lead at 40:57 (6-3) before Mark Cooper added an almost identical goal off a Bast pass at 44:31 to increase their lead. (7-3)
And although the result was already secured, the Giants added two more just to further underline their dominance, Grant Cooper turning and firing home from the blue-line at 53:19 (8-3) before David Gilbert scored on the wraparound at 56:50 to end the game in style. (9-3)
Next up, the Stena Line Belfast Giants face Coventry Blaze in a double-header at The SSE Arena, Belfast on Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 March. Tickets are on sale HERE!