It was a game of cat and mouse at the SSE Arena on Sunday afternoon as the Belfast Giants took the lead no less than three times, only to have the game promptly levelled by the Dundee Stars. A 3-3 tie was sent to overtime, where the Giants saw a power play opportunity go begging, before Scott Conway bagged the only goal of the shootout to clinch the win and extra Challenge Cup point.
It was a tighter encounter than Adam Keefe probably would have liked, as the Giants looked to respond after Saturday night’s 3-0 shutout defeat in Manchester.
It did not take long for the game to burst into life. A beautiful offensive play into the offensive zone by Slater Doggett and Mark Cooper found Tyler Soy with a cross ice pass to the edge of the crease. Soy likely knew very little about the puck coming off his body at 2:45, but Belfast’s first goal of the weekend was a welcome one. (1-0)
Slightly less welcome was Dundee’s immediate response. Just 11 seconds later, Sebastien Bengtsson found Gabriel Desjardins who levelled the game with a snipe on Jackson Whistle’s glove side. (TOG 2:56, 1-1)
Giants Captain David Goodwin continued a riotous first period at 4:13, nosing the home side back in front with a flick over Stars goaltender Adam Morrison’s pads, assisted by Scott Conway and JJ Piccinich. (2-1)
Belfast’s opening power play was nullified by a physical, shot blocking Stars defence at 10:45 as Alexandre Ranger sat for slashing.
A melee in front of the Giants bench at 17:21 led to Lewis Hook sitting for interference, along with Jordan Boucher and Kyle Haas, who continued their mutual grudge with a pair of roughing calls in the aftermath.
A fragmented and chippy middle period lowered the tempo of the game and brought a halt to the goal-fest of the opening 20 minutes.
Kyle Haas returned to the penalty box at 25:46 for slashing, but again the Giants power play unit came up short.
Belfast’s kill unit survived a Slater Doggett hooking call at 31:11, and a Sam Ruopp slashing penalty at 33:56; however, Dundee had consistent time in the zone throughout, as the Giants defenders scrambled to protect Whistle.
Connor Sills sucked the air out of the SSE Arena just 20 seconds into the final period, sending the puck low on Whistle’s glove side to level the game again at 40:20. (Assist: Drydn Dow, 2-2)
It was level yet again at 43:27, this time courtesy of Scott Conway who pounced on David Goodwin’s pass from behind the net for a tight angle finish. (3-2)
Jackson Whistle and Adam Morrison stole the limelight for the majority of the third with a string of athletic saves in their respective creases.
Belfast killed a Mark Cooper interference penalty at 44:13 but were caught out by Gabriel Desjardins at 46:29; his finish coming off an offensive rush by Charlie Combs and Spencer Dorowicz. (3-3)
Belfast were handed a golden opportunity to win the game 2:14 into 3-on-3 overtime as Alexandre Ranger headed to the box for slashing. However, the power play unit couldn’t find a way past the closed ranks in front of Adam Morrison.
Both goaltenders once again shone as the shootout was decided by a single goal.
Jackson Whistle turned away all five of Dundee’s penalty shots, and it was man of the match Scott Conway who stepped up third to add the Giants’ extra point by beating an impressive Adam Morrison.
The Belfast Giants make the trip to Nottingham to face the Panthers for the first time this season in Elite League action on Friday 29th October at 7:30pm, before returning home to close their Challenge Cup group campaign against the Fife Flyers on a special Halloween Game night in Belfast next Saturday 30th October at 7:00pm. Tickets are ON SALE NOW!
Photos by William Cherry.