The Belfast Giants knew the stakes were high coming into Saturday evening’s showdown with the Cardiff Devils, just a week removed from a 0 point home double header against the Manchester Storm.
It perhaps showed in a cagey opening period with little stoppage, with the referees opting to let the game flow.
Belfast pinned Cardiff in their own zone in the opening minute, ringing the post before the hosts fired a warning shot on Giants goalie Jackson Whistle at the opposite end.
Devils goalie Ben Bowns kept his side in it throughout the period, with the action becoming more end to end throughout the final 5 minutes.
Jackson Whistle was stellar as Gabe Bast was called for interference at 20:31 but couldn’t hold back the tide at 5 on 3 as Lewis Hook joined him in the box for hooking 40 seconds later. Cole Sanford promptly opened the scoring with a short-range effort at 22:21. (1-0)
It took just 21 seconds for the Giants to find their response, with Steve Owre finding Ciaran Long, who broke into the zone for a cool short-handed finish past Bowns. (1-1)
The Giants survived a Jackson Whistle tripping call at 31:25, but a Marcus Crawford one timer from the left at 37:15 send the hosts in at the break with a one goal advantage. (2-1)
The Giants kill unit turned away a David Goodwin high sticking call at 42:28, but the Devils extended their lead at 47:45 when Trevor Cox’s backhand pass from the right circle found Cole Sanford in the mid slot for his second of the game. (3-1)
A Giants too many men penalty (served by Darik Angeli) at 53:58 was briefly sent to 4 on 4 as Marcus Crawford took a 2+2 for high sticking at 54:12. An interference penalty from Gabe Bast made it a 4 on 3 power play to Cardiff at 54:27, before coach Brodie Dupont called a time out.
As the clock ticked down on a filled scoreboard, the Giants found themselves with 1:40 on the power play. Adam Keefe called Jackson Whistle to the bench with 3 minutes to go, icing the extra man, before Ciaran Long edged one back unassisted at 57:29. (3-2)
Keefe called a timeout with 1:14 remaining, but, with Whistle back on the bench, Belfast could not find the tying goal.
The game was over with 19 seconds remaining on the clock when Cole Sanford slotted his hat trick goal into the empty net. (4-2)
The Stena Line Belfast Giants return home to The SSE Arena, Belfast on Sunday afternoon for a clash with the Dundee Stars. Please note the updated face off time of 6:00pm. Tickets are on sale HERE!