Giants Book Place at Playoff Finals Weekend
The Stena Line Belfast Giants are headed to the Viaplay Elite League Playoff Finals Weekend as they defeated the Glasgow Clan 7-6 on aggregate in their Quarter-Final despite losing the second leg 4-3 at the Braehead Arena.
Although birthday boy Scott Conway grabbed two goals and Will Cullen also found the back of the net, the eighth-seeded Scottish side fought back to make it a one-goal game, however they couldn't prevent the League champions from progressing to the final four.
The Giants will face the Nottingham Panthers in the Semi-Final at 3pm on Saturday at the National Ice Centre in Nottingham, with the winners progressing to the Final against either the Sheffield Steelers or Cardiff Devils on Sunday evening.
Similarly to the first leg, it didn't take long for the Giants to go ahead and it was a fine bit of tic-tac-toe hockey from the top line that set up the goal as David Goodwin and Steve Owre combined to give Conway the empty net tap-in at 3:12. (0-1)
And when given another opportunity only a couple of minutes later, the same man made no mistake as he skated in on Clan netminder Ty Taylor one-on-one and just squeezed the puck through the pads for the second at 5:29. (0-2)
Another breakaway, this time for Matt McLeod from Mark Garside's stretch pass, nearly yielded another goal but this time Taylor made the save, and instead the Clan made it a one-goal game at 9:22 when Steven McParland turned and his shot evaded Tyler Beskorowany and crossed the line by a matter of inches. (1-2)
The Giants were unable to capitalise on a roughing penalty against Dyson Stevenson, a powerplay which was interrupted by Ciaran Long dropping the gloves with Mitch Jones, but when Glasgow got a powerplay of their own they took full advantage.
A tripping penalty against Matt Foley left the visitors shorthanded and although they survived Gabriel Chabot hitting the post initially, the Clan did tie it up on the night at 14:53 when Stephen Dixon's driven pass to the crease was tipped in by Stevenson. (2-2)
The Giants had a great chance off the face-off as Owre skated in on Taylor inside the opening ten seconds but fired wide before Sam Ruopp nearly caught the goaltender napping but his shot from a sharp angle hit the frame of the goal and rebounded away.
But the goal would come and when it did it was rather fortunate, Cullen's shot from the blue-line seemingly covered by Taylor, but the netminder failed to glove it and it snuck through and over the line at 24:54. (2-3)
Once again, however, the Giants ran into penalty trouble as Cooper (slashing) and Donovan Neuls (face-off violation) were sent to the box and Glasgow punished them again, this time Kevin Massy ripping home the shot from the high slot on the two-man advantage at 25:52. (3-3)
Ruopp came within inches of putting Belfast back in front when his blue-line shot through traffic hit the post, with Conway did likewise from between the face-off dots, while another couple of tipped efforts from Stevenson and John Dunbar tested Beskorowany but failed to find the twine.
Glasgow had the first opportunity of the final frame as Ruopp was penalised for delay of game but the best chance of the powerplay actually went to the Giants as Ben Lake broke shorthanded with Cooper but saw his shot saved by Taylor.
The Clan netminder then produced another stunning save to deny Conway and nobody in a white jersey could poke home the puck in the crease, and that proved vital as Jeff Solow punished a misplay at the blue-line to give the home side a one-goal lead, skating in and beating Beskorowany one-on-one at 48:00. (4-3)
Belfast had a huge opportunity to kill off the tie on the powerplay - Solow off for delay of game - as a shot from distance was tipped on goal by Cooper and it hit the post, and somehow the winger couldn't finish off the rebound on the doorstep as the hosts survived, while they were also able to play out a too many men penalty as well.
In the end, the Giants needed Beskorowany to bail them out late on as he made a massive save to deny Jordan Cownie, who had been brilliantly set up by Dunbar, to maintain their one-goal advantage and, despite the loss on the night, it was they who celebrated at the final buzzer.
Next up, it’s onto the 2022/23 Viaplay Playoff Finals Weekend on Saturday 15 & Sunday 16 April. Click here to find out more and buy tickets.
Photography by Al Goold.