The game marked the first time ex-Giants goaltender Peyton Jones returned to Belfast in his new Panthers’ jersey. Jones took on his former club last week in Nottingham, a game that was a battle of the goaltenders between him and Giants’ Tyler Beskorowany. Both were back in net tonight for a rematch.
The first period was full of exciting two-way hockey. While the first 10 minutes were a bit quieter with a few chances for both sides, the game picked up after Giant’s goaltender Tyler Beskorowany made a solid save on a partial breakaway.
The Giants’ made sure they took advantage of their goaltender’s big save by returning the pressure against their opponents. Once again, the newly formed Grant Cooper-Matt McLeod- Donovan Nuels line made their presence known. Grant Cooper, who earlier blocked a shot on the defensive zone, took his shot on the left side of Panther’s goaltender Peyton Jones, leaving a juicy rebound for Matt McLeod to jump on. The goal marked McLeod’s second of his debut weekend as a Belfast Giant. (1-0)
The Panthers came back with fury with a big hit against McLeod, resulting in Giants’ defenseman Gabe Bast taking a 2-minute slashing call in retaliation.
The home team played the box with support from the crease to kill the penalty and keep the Panthers off the scoreboard. The penalty-kill was followed to a power play opportunity where the Panthers were able to put some pucks against Beskorowany despite being short-handed.
Tensions peaked between the two sides in the last few minutes of the game. Ciaran Long was sent to the box for hooking and there was a bit of pushing and shoving, a sign of what was to come. With just under a minute left, Panthers’ Fabrizio Ricci took out his frustration on Sam Ruopp leading a full-line pile on behind Beskorowany’s net. Ricci was handed 2-minutes, allowing the Giants to start the second on the power play.
The Giants started the second on the power play but couldn’t capitalise on this one. After the Panthers killed the penalty, the Giants kept the momentum up as the top line fired shot after shot at Peyton Jones with no success. Jones even stayed calm and collected against a 3 on 0.
The game shifted back and forth, with Panthers getting their fair share of chances again the brick wall known as Besko. Belfast’s defensive effort was aiming for perfection as Matt Foley and Jeff Baum helped the crease with some blocked shots. Jeff Baum left the ice shortly after with an unrelated injury.
Both goaltenders once again stood strong as the shot counter made its way up, but the period ended with no additional scoring.
The Panthers’ discipline let them down in the third as Tanner Sorenson ended up in the box for tripping. Swedish forward Henrik Eriksson positioned himself perfectly on the power play to find the top corner over Peyton Jones’ shoulder. (2-0)
Another Panthers’ penalty set up Giants’ captain Goodwin for yet another power play goal, thanks to a pass from Scott Conway just two minutes after Eriksson. (3-0)
Shortly after Matt McLeod took a seat in the sin bin for high sticking. The Panthers saw their opportunity and pulled Jones to have six skaters on the ice against the Giants’ four. The strategy worked as Stephen Anderson was able to get one past Beskorowany. (3-1)
That was the last of the Panthers’ success for the evening as the Giants put on the jets for the final 10 minutes of play. Forward Steve Owre, who’s been on a roll for the past couple of months, unsurprisingly found the back of the net with under five minutes left in the game. (4-1)
Just a minute and a half later Ben Lake and Scott Conway displayed some beautiful tic-tac-toe pass work to get the puck to Lewis Hook who had all but an empty net to finish it off. (5-1)
The Giants weren't finished as newcomer Matt McLeod decided to get one more in, his second of the night and third of the weekend to finish off the evening. (6-1)
The Stena Line Belfast Giants are on the road next weekend taking on the Glasgow Clan and Fife Flyers in Viaplay Elite Ice Hockey League action. They return home on 1 March to defend their Challenge Cup title against the Fife Flyers. Limited tickets are on sale HERE!