Goals from Goodwin, Cooper (2), Piccinich and Conway saw the Giants over the line, while the Steelers only goal came on the 5 on 3 power play.
The Belfast Giants looked sharp from the drop, not only in possession but defensively- forcing multiple turnovers in neutral ice with good backchecking and stick work.
An early opportunity presented itself when Tanner Eberle served a bench minor for too many men at 1:29, but the Giants opened their account even handed at 9:27 when Captain David Goodwin’s shot from the low left circle crept through Steelers goalie Rok Stojanovic’s 5 hole (Assist: JJ Piccinich, Griffin Reinhart). (1-0)
The Giants doubled their lead at 12:29 when Sam Ruopp’s laser of a one timer from the blue line was tipped down at the crease by Mark Cooper. (2-0)
When Scott Conway was called for tripping at 12:57, Belfast’s kill unit looked comfortable, and when Tanner Eberle returned to the box for roughing at 19:19, their power play unit made Sheffield pay as Cooper struck his second from close range (Assist: JJ Piccinich, David Goodwin). (3-0)
Sheffield’s comeback efforts were helped along by a succession of Giants penalties in the middle period.
They found their opener on the 5 on 3, with Tyler Soy (tripping, 25:41) and JJ Piccinich (interference, 25:55) heading to the box in quick succession. After being peppered in the zone and turning away shot after shot, Robert Dowd finally beat Giants goalie Tyler Beskorowany at 27:15 (Assist: Vojtek Polak, Marc-Olivier Vallerand). (3-1)
The hosts had a chance to respond at 28:17 when Justin Hodgman sat for cross checking, but referee Dean Smith awarded Sheffield a penalty shot when Griffin Reinhart’s defensive effort on a breakaway was called for holding. Vallerand was tasked with the shot, which Tyler Beskorowany tracked well and denied.
Lewis Hook was to follow for boarding at 35:08 as Belfast’s penalty woes continued, but the kill unit once again saw away the danger.
The Giants struggled to establish themselves in the zone on an early power play (Davy Phillips, tripping, 42:41), but more than made up for it at 46:35 when Scott Conway worked his way in close to tuck home Belfast’s fourth unassisted. (4-1)
Scott Conway lasered a pass between two orange jerseys at the left wall at 51:15, finding JJ Piccinich alone in front of goal for a clinical finish (Second assist: David Goodwin). (5-1)
Vallerand made matters worse for the Steelers with a roughing penalty at 54:05, sending Griffin Reinhart’s helmet spinning to the ice.
A scrum in front of Beskorowany in the dying seconds made little difference (Ciaran Long, cross checking and Marc-Olivier Vallerand, rouging, 59:32). The Belfast Giants had been utterly superb throughout the final period, and a thunderous SSE Arena made sure they knew.
The good news? We’re doing this again tonight! Belfast vs Sheffield, Saturday 12 March at 7:00pm. Tickets are on sale HERE!