Second period goals from captain Mark Cooper and Ara Nazarian were complemented by third period strikes from man of the match Ciaran Long and Quinn Preston, as well as another strong display from netminder Tyler Beskorowany, to start the domestic campaign in the ideal fashion.
There were plenty of opportunities in the first period as the Stars nearly fashioned a chance out of nothing when Chris McKay’s flick over the top set James Phelan on Beskorowany, but the netminder made the save. At the other end of the ice, Sean Norris tested Kevin Carr off Ben Lake’s reverse pass, but the visiting goaltender made the stop.
The chances kept coming with Lake firing straight at Carr before Charlie Curti nearly tipped a pass in at the goal-line. Jacob Friend then forced a smart glove save from Carr, but the best chance fell to Dundee captain Drydn Dow, who was set up all alone out in front by Anthony Rinaldi but fired over the bar.
The Giants could not connect on the first powerplay of the game as Sean Allen’s interference penalty went unpunished, with both sides passing up chances to take the lead. Craig Garrigan’s turn and shot was blockered away by Beskorowany before Carr got his body behind a Preston shot just before the buzzer.
The Giants survived an early scare when a breakaway saw Ryan Valentini’s shortside effort saved by the stick of Beskorowany. They made the most of that reprieve by taking the lead at 21:06 as Daniel Tedesco’s shot was padded into the air and Mark Cooper was there to bat it in from behind the net. (1-0)
The home side then played out their first penalty of the night as Jacob Friend was sent to the box for tripping, and the defenceman nearly grabbed his first goal in a teal jersey as he fired on goal straight out of the box but found Carr’s glove, before a cross-checking call on Long was off-set by a tripping penalty on Rinaldi.
Once again the Giants’ second goal came after they caught a break in the defensive zone when Carter Johnson hit the Giants’ post, before Nazarian doubled their lead on the powerplay at 33:46 with an assist from Greg Printz. Printz passed the puck through the seam for his winger to snap in the one-timer from a tight angle. (2-0)
The visitors would make things interesting heading into the final period as Johnny Walker got them off the mark at 38:21. Dow drove the net from the right circle and although Beskorowany was there to make the initial save, the forward was following up to convert the rebound. (2-1)
A tripping call from Dow on Printz put the Giants on an early powerplay but they couldn’t find the net, but that wouldn’t cost them as Long added their third at 46:15 when Oliver Cooper’s pass into the right circle found the forward skating onto it and he smashed it high into the net. (3-1)
Walker was called for cross-checking, sending the Giants on the powerplay. The Englishman, Ciaran Long, nearly turned provider when his pass to the back door hit off the skate of Matt McLeod with the net wide open. They weren’t able to capitalise and shortly after Carr produced his best save of the night when he stretched out low to deny first Nazarian and then Printz on the rebound.
But the two-goal difference was to prove enough as both sides killed off late penalties. The Giants played out a roughing call against Norris and the Stars survived an interference penalty on Brendan Harms. The home side held on and Preston’s empty netter at 59:02 sealed the deal. (4-1)
The Stena Line Belfast Giants are on the road for further Challenge Cup action in Dundee tomorrow before traveling for their first couple Elite Ice Hockey League games. They return home to take on Austria's EC Red Bull Salzburg here at home on Tuesday 10 October in Champions Hockey League action. Tickets are on sale HERE!