Giants Take Two-Goal Lead to Scotland in Playoff Quarter-Final
The Stena Line Belfast Giants will take a two-goal lead into the second leg of their Viaplay Elite League playoff quarter-final against the Glasgow Clan after securing a 4-2 win in the first leg at The SSE Arena, Belfast.
Two goals from winger Steven Owre and further strikes from winger Mark Cooper and defenceman Gabe Bast mean the League champions hold the advantage heading to the Braehead Arena for the return leg on Sunday night.
Clan netminder Ty Taylor made an excellent save to deny Matt McLeod early, but the Giants wouldn't wait long to go ahead as Matt Foley's stretch pass along the boards set Cooper into the zone and he finished five-hole at 5:35. (1-0)
Another excellent play from Foley nearly set up a second as he pinched the puck in the offensive zone and fed Scott Conway for the shot, with only an excellent intervention from a Clan defenceman preventing Owre from tapping in the rebound.
Glasgow were firing a couple of warning shots, however, and Steven McParland was inches away from redirecting a pass in at the back door but he couldn't make good enough connection with the puck before former Giant Craig Peacock almost squeezed the puck under Tyler Beskorowany but the goaltender made the stop.
Belfast survived a big scare just 1:03 before the end of the period when the Clan did have the puck in the net, Gary Haden battling by the side of the goal to put it back in front for John Dunbar, but the video review determined the winger kicked it in with his foot.
It took just 16 seconds of the middle frame for the Giants to double their lead as Conway put it on a plate for Owre to tap in, the centre dangling around his man in the slot and selfishly passing for the winger to finish for the second of the game. (2-0)
A hooking call just 12 seconds later on Dunbar went unpunished but the home side kept up the pressure as Bast forced Taylor into a smart save from a tight angle before Owre's snapshot was also denied by the visiting goaltender.
But penalty trouble in the middle of the period cost the Giants dearly as calls against Conway (tripping) and Ciaran Long (holding) put them on the penalty kill and twice the Clan struck, McParland firing home from a tight angle on the 5-on-3 at 32:40 (2-1)before Gabriel Chabot rifled home from long range on the powerplay at 34:01. (2-2)
The Giants, meanwhile, were unable to take advantage of a late boarding call against Clan defenceman Kevin Massy as the period came to a close.
Glasgow were given an early chance to break the tie as Donovan Neuls sat for a high sticking penalty but the Giants did a strong job at playing out the powerplay and then took advantage of two of their own to pull ahead.
The first, which came from a trip by Liam Stenton on David Gilbert, saw Bast get on the scoresheet when he stepped onto a rebound from Cooper's initial shot and ripped it home at 50:43 (3-2), and then when Andrew McLean was boxed for kneeing, David Goodwin drove the pass to the crease for Owre to tip in for his second at 53:31. (4-2)
Head coach Adam Keefe will wonder how his side are not taking a larger lead into the second leg as they piled on the pressure late in the game and they couldn't convert two two-on-one breakaways as Taylor did superbly to save from Owre after a nice pass from Conway, and then a sliding poke check denied McLeod a tap-in on a rush with Neuls.