Despite three powerplay goals from Oliver Cooper, Daniel Tedesco and Ara Nazarian, the Giants were beaten by two third period goals from their visitors and could not find a tying goal late on as they couldn’t gain revenge for Saturday’s defeat in the opening game of their double-header.
A fast paced start to the game wasn’t accompanied by many early chances, but when the first real shot of the game arrived for the Devils’ Trevor Cox, who battled to win the puck in the slot, Jackson Whistle came up with a massive double stop to keep the dangerous winger off the scoresheet.
At the other end, Tedesco was inches away from giving Belfast the lead when he drove down the middle of the ice and beat Ben Bowns only for his backhand to hit the post, but the goal would come at 9:29 as Jamie Arniel took a double-minor for accidental high-sticking and Tedesco fed the puck through the seam for Cooper to tap in at the back post. (1-0)
But having pulled ahead, and then seeing Tedesco hit the post for a second time, the Giants would be pegged back on the second of Arniel’s penalties as the Devils tied it shorthanded, Cox skating in from the right circle and beating Whistle low at 11:14 (1-1) and they could have led at the second intermission when Joey Martin seized on a loose puck in the slot and fired on goal but Whistle made a brilliant stop.
A cross-checking call with 2.9 seconds of the first period remaining meant the Giants started the second period shorthanded but they played out the penalty and Whistle made a good stop to deny Cody Donaghey to keep it level, but he was powerless to prevent Cole Sanford putting Cardiff ahead at 23:08 as he was first to a rebound off Martin’s initial effort to slot home. (1-2)
That had the visitors’ tails up and Whistle had to be on top form to deny a trio of quickfire chances from Evan Mosey, Marcus Crawford and Arniel, making three fantastic stops to keep them at bay, but unfortunately Bowns was in just as good form as he threw up a shoulder to deflect another Tedesco effort over the bar.
But the turning point would come when Ryan Barrow was ejected for a nasty hit on Jacob Friend behind the Devils net and the home side would take full advantage, David Goodwin providing the killer pass for both Tedesco at 31:36 (2-2) and Nazarian at 35:51 (3-2) to snap home finishes from the right circle for powerplay goals to put the Giants ahead.
The chances didn’t stop there, though, as Cardiff finished the period strongly but found Whistle in superb form as he produced a huge stop to deny Justin Crandall and then helped play out a late hooking call against Jeff Baum.
It would only take 3:13 of the final period for the visitors to tie it up again, although there was plenty of good fortune behind it as Cole Ully’s shot was blocked straight back onto his stick and he fired into the empty net (3-3), with Kohei Sato nearly giving the Giants an immediate lead again as he drove the net but just saw his jammed effort slip wide.
Whistle was having to be at his sparkling best, making two massive stops to deny Brandon Alderson to keep Cardiff from taking the lead, but eventually the dam would burst as Sanford grabbed his second to put the visitors on top at 48:32, picking the top corner on the powerplay after Davy Phillips was called for cross-checking. (3-4)
And that would be the killer goal, the Giants throwing everything at it in the dying stages to try and force an equaliser but they couldn’t find one, Bowns shutting the door with Whistle pulled for the extra skater and the visitors were able to cling on to complete the two-win weekend.
Next up, the Stena Line Belfast Giants are headed on a Scottish road trip which will see them take on the Glasgow Clan on Saturday February 10 and Dundee Stars on Sunday February 11.