First period goals from Ben Davies and Brodie Reid followed by a Jake Coughler double in the second and third (empty net goal) saw off the Giants, with Griffin Reinhart’s first period marker the only response from the visitors.
As the sequel to last week’s barn burner in Belfast got under way, both sides tested each other early. Giants goalie Tyler Beskorowany had to be alert to an early Sam Duggan shot on his right post, while at the other end Mac Carruth was a match for Lewis Hook’s prompt reply.
Belfast’s struggles on the power play continued as they failed to set up in the zone for a Marc McNulty tripping call at 5:24 and when handed a second opportunity courtesy of Riley Brandt (tripping, 8:08), Ben Davies broke away from the Devils zone and gave the hosts the lead short handed at 9:02 (Assist: Sam Duggan). (1-0)
The ice continued to tip away from the Giants as Sam Ruopp was called for interference at 13:09. It took just 33 seconds for the Cardiff power play unit to find the net and double their lead as Josh Waller squared the puck from the left to Brodie Reid in the slot. (2-0)
Griffin Reinhart provided a lifeline in response at 17:22, wristing a Mark Cooper pass from his left to claw one back from the mid slot. (2-1)
Belfast seemed to shore up the odd man rushes that had been costly early on as the middle period got under way, with noticeable improvement on tape-to-tape passing in the opening minutes.
Despite that, it was the Cardiff Devils who found success in front of goal as the Giants continued to search for zone time.
Solid press from Cole Sandford found Jeff Baum alone in possession behind Beskorowany. His forced turnover was coughed out into the path of Trevor Cox at the crease, whose snapped shot looked like it had been stopped and frozen by the Belfast goalie.
Those watching along expecting to hear a whistle were instead surprised by a second bite of the cherry from Coughler at the back door; hammering what appeared instead to be a loose puck home for Cardiff’s third at 24:36. (3-1)
The remainder of the period was fast moving, penalty-free and attritional as Belfast continued to look for a way past Carruth, and Cardiff continued to hit the visitors on the counterattack.
There was an early scare for the Giants four minutes into the final period as Sam Ruopp lost an edge behind the goal, but Beskorowany turned away the resulting shot from Brendan Mikkelson.
The Cardiff Devils were content to frustrate Belfast for the remainder with resolute defending, limiting Adam Keefe’s side save for the odd flash of meaningful offence from the Giants top line.
Their best-looking chance came courtesy of JJ Piccinich with six minutes remaining, sending the puck from the right to Scott Conway, who fired agonisingly over Carruth’s bar.
Keefe rolled the dice early, pulling Tyler Beskorowany in favour of the extra skater with 3:09 remaining, followed by a time out to draw up a face off play in the Devils zone with 1:36 left.
But the game was over at 59:25 when Jake Coughler found the empty net from the neutral zone, handing the Cardiff Devils a measure of revenge from last week’s defeat at The SSE Arena.
Following tomorrow’s visit to Guildford, the Belfast Giants return home on Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th January as the Coventry Blaze visit The SSE Arena for a double header weekend. Tickets are on sale HERE!
Photo credits: James Assinder and Rebecca Brain.