Battling Giants Fall to Czech Champions in CHL Opener
Despite a valiant battle from the Stena Line Belfast Giants in the Czech Republic on Friday afternoon, Adam Keefe’s side fell to Czech Champions Oceláři Třinec by a scoreline of 0-4.
Belfast matched the hosts for much of the game, going 5 for 5 on the penalty kill, before a third period brace and an empty netter from Třinec iced the game.
Mark Cooper’s big hit at the blue line sent the Giants onto the penalty kill in the second minute. Despite a good early kill, Třinec turned the screw on Belfast back at full strength, camping out in the zone and peppering goalie Peyton Jones in the crease.
Belfast’s opening power play at 12:07 was short lived. Seconds after Marko Dano took a seat for interference, Scott Conway was hauled for high sticking- sending the sides to 4 on 4.
Jones was stellar in the 11th minute as Daniel Kurovsky struck a pair of grade A shots in quick succession, and the Giants continued to hang in there with the Czech Champions.
Gabe Bast’s high stick on Alan Lyszczarczyk at 14:34 drew a 2+2 penalty, but as he left the box following a successful kill, an Ocelari shot from the right circle bounced awkwardly off the boards and into the path of Daniel Vozenilek, who edged the hosts into the lead at 18:38. (1-0)
Ciaran Long provided Belfast’s first big chance of the middle period, skating into the zone and deking defenceman Karlis Cukstre before ripping a shot from the right circle after 25 minutes.
A scramble in front of the open net brought the Giants agonisingly close to an equaliser mid-period, but Mark Cooper’s dish across the front of goal couldn’t find the blade of a Giant’s stick.
Darik Angeli’s hooking call at 33:22 sent Oceláři Třinec onto their fourth power play of the afternoon, but Kevin Raine and the Giants special teams held firm.
Raine was called for a dubious tripping penalty with just over 10 seconds remaining in the period, leaving the Giants on the kill to begin the third.
The Belfast Giants opened their third period by going 5 for 5 on the penalty kill, an impressive display of resolve against a highly offensive Czech side.
Colby McAuley’s effort in-close on Třinec’s Marek Mazanec looked to have tied it after 45 minutes, but a video review deemed that the puck did not cross the goal line.
Chad Butcher and Tyler Soy’s 2 on 1 in the 46th minute was shut down by Mazanec, intercepting the puck before it reached Soy at the back door.
Jakub Jerabek’s tripping call at 47:01 looked like it could have ended up a Giants 5 on 3, but after being hauled down in the slot, an astonished Scott Conway could do nothing as the referee waved play on.
Belfast pressed, but Marko Dano found the puck on the breakaway short-handed; entering the zone and cutting inside to rip a shot from the right circle at 50:33, doubling the hosts’ lead. (2-0)
Libor Hudacek’s puck across the face of goal was met on the left by Petr Vrana to add a third at 53:43. (3-0)Vladimir Dravecky’s slashing penalty at 56:21 was Adam Keefe’s cue to pull Peyton Jones for the 6 on 4 power play, but Jan Zahradnicek’s sauce from the neutral zone sailed into the empty net at 57:29 to end the game. (4-0)
The Stena Line Belfast Giants return home on Sunday to continue their Champions Hockey League campaign at the SSE Arena, as Switzerland’s HC Davos come to town. Tickets are on sale HERE!