In his first competitive start of the season, Whistle turned away every shot he saw, which allowed the Giants - who were 5-for-5 on the penalty kill - to skate away with the two points thanks to Long’s fine finish just after the midway point of the second period, maintaining their unbeaten start to the domestic campaign.
A scoreless first period was dominated by penalties, with the Giants starting the game with back-to-back penalty kills as Mark Cooper (hooking) and Ara Nazarian (boarding) took calls, and it took two good stops from Whistle to deny Max Humitz and Teemu Pulkkinen on the powerplay.
The Giants couldn’t connect on their first powerplay of the game when Lucas Chiodo was boxed for tripping, but their best chance of the period came shortly after they killed off a penalty against Jacob Friend for cross-checking, Quinn Preston snapping a shot from the right circle that needed Shane Owen to flash the leather to glove down.
Sean Norris nearly broke the deadlock shortly before the intermission when he jumped off the bench and drove the net but was denied by the goaltender, with the Flyers managing to play out a late hooking penalty against Anthon Eriksson.
The Giants had two big chances early in the period to take the lead as Ciaran Long went on the breakaway with Kohei Sato and saw his shot saved by the netminder’s pad, before Owen produced a stunning stop to deny Sato after some lovely passing from Norris and Travis Brown set him up at the back door.
Back-to-back powerplays as Casey Gilling (slashing) and Brady Pouteau (cross-checking) gave the Giants the chance to make the breakthrough but they couldn’t strike, with both netminders making big saves as Humitz was denied by Whistle and then Owen thrust out a pad to deny Preston and Pulkkinen blocked the rebound.
The Belfast Giants broke the deadlock at 31:23. Oliver Cooper’s pass from behind the net found Long out in front and the Great Britain international picked his spot over Owen’s glove for the opening goal. (0-1)
Both teams had late chances on the powerplay to add on before the second intermission as the Giants’ Oliver Cooper and Flyers defenceman Jonas Emmerdahl both took hooking minors but neither goaltender was overly tested.
The Belfast Giants were back on the penalty kill just 35 seconds into the final period as Daniel Tedesco was called for interference and Whistle had to be sharp to twice deny Collin Shirley out in front, the latter save his best of the game as he stood strong as the forward skated in on him.
Lucas Chiodo had a huge opportunity to tie the scoreboard when he was hauled down one-on-one with Whistle to earn the penalty shot but the Fife forward couldn’t get his shot away, relieving the danger, before Belfast failed to capitalise on a holding call against Emmerdahl.
Shirley had another opportunity as time ticked down. The puck dropped to the Fife forward at the back post but he was unable to shoot before Whistle managed to glove it dead. At the other end Long could have finished things off but only found the shoulder of Owen. Fortunately, that wasn’t to matter as the Giants closed things out for the win on the 5-on-3 powerplay as Kyle Osterberg (holding) and Chiodo (unsportsmanlike conduct) ended the game in the box.
The Stena Line Belfast Giants remain on the road, with fixtures against the Guildford Flames and Cardiff Devils next weekend before returning to Champions Hockey League action against EC Salzburg at The SSE Arena, Belfast on Tuesday 10 October. Tickets are available here.