It didn’t take long for Friday night’s encounter to burst into life. David Gilbert’s shot from range at 4:39 found Sean Norris for a tip in front of Panthers goalie Alex Dubeau- marking Norris’ first goal as a Belfast Giant, and the Giants’ 600th of all time versus Nottingham (per Davy McGimpsey). (1-0)
After the restart, a chance at the back door from Giants Captain David Goodwin sent Dubeau spiralling for a spectacular save, before defenceman Josh Roach pinged a puck off the crossbar.
The deluge was far from over. Gabe Bast’s speculative backhand from the mid-slot sailed through traffic and in to double the hosts’ lead at 6:25. (2-0)
As Nottingham forward Fabrizio Ricci sat for hooking at 9:22, a great pass through the top of the slot from Scott Conway found Ben Lake for the Giants’ third unanswered at 10:45. (3-0)
There was momentary reprieve for the Panthers when Ricci made amends for his penalty minutes with the visitors’ opener at 11:16. (3-1)
Lewis Hook sent Belfast’s fourth through Dubeau’s five hole at 13:35, and Sam Ruopp’s effort at 15:56 was the Panthers goalie’s last action of the game as he was replaced by 18-year-old backup Matthew Bloor. (4-1, 5-1)
Bloor was called into action almost immediately, scrambling to turn away the relentless tide of Giants attack and surviving a reviewed goal which was adjudged to have not fully crossed the line.
Dubeau was back in the crease for the Nottingham Panthers as the middle period began and set about proving a point for the remainder of the game with a solid, consistent showing against any pressure thrown his way.
The mayhem of the first period was sufficient to nullify the action throughout a much tamer 20 minutes, with the Giants content to manage the game and the Panthers unable to take a significant offensive foot hold, thanks in part to a consistent performance in the opposite crease from Jackson Whistle.
Whistle added to his highlight reel with a post-to-post move to glove a rocket one timer, as the Panthers surged on the power play after Matt Foley’s interference call at 41:59.
Nottingham Head Coach Corey Neilson rolled the dice at 49:43, calling Alex Dubeau to the bench to ice the extra skater as Lewis Hook sent the Giants onto the penalty kill with a tripping call.
However, despite a time out to draw up his plans mid-power play, the Giants saw away the danger and the Panthers goalie returned to his crease.
Meanwhile, Belfast had the zone time, but didn’t find the goal on the power play as Jack Hopkins sat for tripping at 53:17.
There was just enough time for a consolation marker for the visitors, as bobbled puck from Whistle’s glove was swiped home by the pads of the goaltender- with Jordan Kelsall being awarded the goal at 57:56. (5-2)
The Stena Line Belfast Giants and the Nottingham Panthers clash at The SSE Arena, Belfast once again tonight (Saturday 13 January) at 7:00pm. Tickets are on sale HERE!