The Giants were ahead just 3:51 into the game as Mark Cooper’s pass through the crease was tapped in at the back door by Tedesco (1-0), a goal that sparked the annual Teddy Bear Toss as hundreds of stuffed toys were thrown onto the ice that will be donated to children who will spend Christmas in hospitals across Northern Ireland.
Beskorowany was called into action when Tyler Hinam got into the right circle and shot, padding the puck away, and the Giants nearly immediately rewarded him when they broke away through Kohei Sato and Tedesco, but the former’s shot was well saved by Evan Weninger.
The chances kept coming for both teams, Beskorowany needing to be alert as the puck squirted in front and Andreas Heier nearly had a tap-in, while at the other end the Storm had to scramble around the crease when Davy Phillips’ shot leaked through the five-hole of Weninger but didn’t have enough to go over the line.
It was always Belfast who looked likelier to add to their tally late in the period, though, with Weninger making three excellent saves to deny Sean Norris off a superb Sato feed, then Cameron Pound and Cooper as the frame wore down.
The Giants had a huge opportunity to open the scoring just 54 seconds into the middle frame when Lake beat Weninger on the back hand, only for the netminder to make an absolutely incredible no-look save to keep the bouncing puck out, and then Beskorowany did likewise to deny Matt Murphy all alone in front at the other end.
Manchester perhaps should have been level midway through the period when Mitchell Martan drove in on goal and the rebound from his shot dropped right onto the stick of Johnny Corniel, but the centreman couldn’t put his backhand, while at the other end the Giants were unable to capitalise on a holding call against Callum Fryer.
But it would be a tied game at the second intermission as Tyler Hinam tied it up at 37:56, the puck landing favourably on his stick after a deflection off Murphy’s shot and he was able to find the top corner. (1-1)
It was a rapid start to the final frame as the visitors were the ones to pull ahead, another fortunate bounce dropping straight to Murphy and he produced the perfect finish over the shoulder of Beskorowany at 43:06 (1-2), but the lead lasted less than two minutes as Charlie Curti’s pass to the crease was jabbed in by Nazarian to tie it up again at 44:51. (2-2)
Belfast needed to play out a holding call against Pound midway through the period but did so successfully, and Curti was nearly the game-winner for the second night in a row as his shot hit the post, while Cooper had a huge chance inside the final minute but shot over the net with Weninger in trouble.
Both sides had big chances to win it in overtime, almost concurrently, as first Curti nearly set up Cooper for a tap-in but he couldn’t quite connect, while at the other end Beskorowany made a massive one-on-one stop as Stephen Johnson broke clean through but couldn’t beat the netminder’s pad.
That took it to the shoot-out, but it would be the Giants who would prevail as Lake and McLeod found the net and, although Will Merchant would also strike for the Storm, Beskorowany would turn away the other four shots he faced to seal the win. (3-2)
The Stena Line Belfast Giants will switch their focus to the second leg of the Challenge Cup quarter-final against the Coventry Blaze on Wednesday 20 December before facing the Fife Flyers at The SSE Arena, Belfast on Friday December 22. Tickets are available here.