Fife came out stronger at home than the previous night at The SSE Arena, Belfast where they lost 7-4 in Challenge Cup group stages, with a lot of credit going to their goaltender Shane Owen who faced 51 shots from the Belfast side tonight.
The Belfast Giants came out flying in Fife but their energy was almost matched by the home team throughout the first 20 minutes of the first period. The Fife Flyers were given prime opportunities within the first few minutes as Giants defenceman Charlie Curti sat two minutes for interference.
The Flyers kept possession in the Giants zone until an unfortunate broken stick led to the Giants getting some momentum to take the play into the offensive zone thanks to Kohei Sato’s speed, carrying the puck to Flyer’s goaltender Shane Owen on a partial breakaway. Owen made the save just in time for the Giants penalty being killed successfully.
Sato was far from finished in the period, standing out with linemate Ciaran Long in creating chances for the Giants. Flyers were not short on chances with a particular close call being stopped with help from defenseman Davey Phillips who sank down onto the goal line to keep the score at zero.
Troy Lajeunesse had one of Fife’s biggest chances for the home team but Giants netminder Tyler Beskorowany stood like a wall, as he did through the remainder of the period, including through a Mark Cooper tripping penalty resulting in a Flyers’ powerplay. Teemu Pulkkinen attempted to close the period off with Fife ahead but was kept outside while rushing the puck up to the Giants net, but was ultimately unsuccessful.
The Belfast Giants came out firing in the second period, playing physically to make an impact on the ice. Unfortunately, Sato was called for an interference penalty just two minutes into the period for a risky hit in the offensive zone.
Finnish forward Pulkkinen took advantage of the powerplay, finding the top corner of the net as Beskorowany was swiftly screened. (1-0)
The Giants responded by continuing to pepper Owen with quality shots from all angles. The Flyers goaltender stood on his head through all 19 shots he faced in the second period, including many attempts on the Giants powerplay when Adam Holwell was called for interference against the Giants. Giants forward Daniel Tedesco was particularly keen, showing off his stickhandling up close and personal in the opposing crease.
In a battle of goaltending, Beskorowany also shut down any additional chances his way to close out the period.
Both teams came out ready to battle in the third. Ben Lake started off the period strong for the Giants with a powerful one-time which Owen was unable to cover up, leaving it in the crease before being swept away from the Flyer’s defensemen.
Even in scrambles in front of the net, Owen was able to make the saves he needed to keep the Flyers in the lead. His play created momentum for his home team, even sending Shirley
onto a breakaway against Beskorowany, where he missed the net.
Just minutes later, Flyers made sure to hit their mark as Sato misplayed the puck right to Humitz in the defensive zone, who fed it perfectly across the crease to Lucas Chiodo to put it past Beskorowany. (2-0)
The Giants’ top line came out for vengeance with Mark Cooper screening Owen to create opportunities in front of the net. Ben Lake fired a shot from close range and picked up his own rebound to crack Owen. (2-1)
After killing a goaltender interference call, the Giants fought hard to even up the game, ensuring Beskorowany wasn’t tired out on the penalty kill. Flyers didn’t let off the gas either, with Humitz almost making it three for the Flyers. Instead, in the chaos, Humitz is called for delay of game, sending the Giants on the powerplay.
Captain Mark Cooper made sure to capitalise on the man advantage, turning a pass from Quinn Preston into an easy goal as Owen struggled to make it across the crease, sending the game to overtime. (2-2)
Much like the previous 60 minutes, the 3 versus 3 overtime was a battle of the goaltenders between Owen and Beskorowany. Tedesco had the Giants’ best chance but was stopped by Owen’s glove hand, while on the other end, Shirley had the home team’s best opportunity.
With just 33 seconds left in sudden death overtime, Shirley tried to sneak the puck shortside between Beskorowany while he hugged his post. Flyers celebrated, but after review, it was confirmed no goal.
With no result in overtime, the game moved to shootout. Both goaltenders stopped all four shots in the first four rounds, leaving it to Mark Cooper to find the back of the net against Owen in the fifth round. Beskorowany made the final save to call the game in favour of the Giants.
The Stena Line Belfast Giants return home for Champions Hockey League action against HC Dynamo Pardubice on 18 October at 7pm. Don’t miss this crucial match, with the Belfast Giants’ chances of making CHL playoffs on the line. Tickets are available here.