There was late drama as Coventry’s Johnny Curran looked to have tied the game on the 6 on 4 power play with 7 seconds remaining, but the referees judged that the puck did not cross the goal line.
A shaky start for the Belfast Giants saw Janne Kivilahti’s puck on goal taking a strong deflection off Johnny Curran’s skate and into Tyler Beskorowany’s net at just 57 seconds. (1-0)
Whilst there was an element of fortune in their opening goal, the Coventry Blaze were well worth both it and their second, following another six minutes of consistent pressure.
Luke Ferrara’s shot at 7:06 committed Beskorowany to his right and was rebounded out into the slot, meeting Janne Laakkonen who was presented with a wide-open net. (2-0)
A power play opportunity came and went for the Giants at 15:12, and in truth the Coventry Blaze were the much better side across the period, finding regular rushes and looks on goal.
Kevin Raine’s one timer from range with 5:30 remaining was Belfast’s first significant chance, and the visitors appeared to finally come to life within the last minute, as Scott Conway and JJ Piccinich applied pressure in the zone.
The Belfast Giants emerged for the middle period and commenced an utter siege on the Coventry Blaze goal.
A goal mouth scramble and several rebound hacks on Blaze goalie CJ Motte in the first minute was an indication of things to come. JJ Piccinich came close on a backhand/forehand attempt from the mid slot in the second minute, and Griffin Reinhart’s one timer was followed by a beautiful piece of individual skill from Ben Lake behind the goal.
And then the floodgates opened. First Lewis Hook struck on the rebound at 28:40 on a delayed penalty as Dane Gibson had sent Tyler Soy crashing into Motte’s left post. (2-1)
A JJ Piccinich tripping call at 29:54 should have put the Giants on the back foot. Instead, it looked more like a power play than a penalty kill as Ciaran Long was denied a certain short-handed goal only by exceptional defensive work from Motte and Nathanael Halbert.
Sam Ruopp’s beautiful one timer from the mid slot tied the game at 34:02 (Assist: Scott Conway, JJ Piccinich) before Kevin Raine stepped up to the blue line after the drop with a vicious one timer of his own to edge Belfast into the lead just 15 seconds later at 34:18. (2-2 / 2-3)
Ciaran Long made short work of Joey Raats as the Coventry forward dropped the gloves early in a tense final period. If Raats was hoping to spark his side, it certainly worked. Tyler Beskorowany denied Janne Kivilahti and Nathanael Halbert in stunning fashion in the first 7 minutes, as the Blaze searched desperately for their equaliser.
At the other end, Slater Doggett pulled the trigger on a Giants 3 on 1 rush with 12:41 remaining in the game, but CJ Motte pulled off the stop.
Belfast were faced with a string of penalty kills to earn their victory, as Scott Conway sat for slashing at 47:56 and Mark Garside was called for delay of game at 51:52.
Then, with CJ Motte pulled and just 28 seconds left in the game, Sam Ruopp was handed a roughing penalty in front of Beskorowany’s crease.
Coventry surged on the 6 on 4 kill and with just 7 seconds on the clock Johnny Curran sent the puck bar-down leading to wild, put premature, celebratory scenes on ice and in the stands.
In a dramatic conclusion to a thrilling game, the referees judged that the puck did not cross the goal line and the Belfast Giants killed off the clock to seal a critical comeback victory.
The Belfast Giants return home to take on the Manchester Storm at the SSE Arena on Sunday (27th February) at 4:00pm. As the title race hots up, this is one not to be missed! Tickets are on sale HERE.