Giants Claim Thrilling 5-3 win in Devils Doubleheader Opener
Four goals inside the first 12 minutes - and a first period hat-trick for J.J. Piccinich - helped the Stena Line Belfast Giants claim the first game of their double-header against the Cardiff Devils, with a thrilling 5-3 win at The SSE Arena.
JJ Piccinich's hat-trick in a momentous quickfire opening salvo; a Lewis Hook one-timer; and Slater Doggett's empty-netter in the dying stages helped Adam Keefe's side hold off a late Devils comeback.
Josh Batch, Brandon McNally and Jake Coughler responded for the visitors, but 30 saves from netminder Tyler Beskorowany kept them at bay long enough to secure a Giants win that moves Belfast three points off top spot in the Premier Sports Elite League.
It took just 15 seconds for the Giants to open their account, with JJ Piccinich grabbing his first of the game when Devils' netminder Mac Carruth lost the puck, leading to a sensational wrap around and the fastest goal of the Giants' season. (1-0)
The lead was quickly doubled at 5:09 with the teams playing four-on-four - McNally (high sticking) and Piccinich (interference) in the box - when Ben Lake and Lewis Hook went on a breakaway; Lake passing across for Hook to hit a one-timer that found the twine. (2-0)
Piccinich added his second, and the Giants' third, only seconds after he stepped back on the ice, finishing on the breakaway at 6:19 (3-0) to prompt visiting head coach Jarrod Skalde to call a time-out.
Piccinich responded by wrapping up his hat-trick, picking up on a loose puck at the crease and roofing it on the backhand to complete his first period treble at 11:19 - a goal that led to Cardiff swapping netminder Carruth for Taran Kozun. (4-0)
The visitors finally got on the board when a big hit in neutral ice from Riley Brandt on Jordan Boucher forced the turnover and immediately Ben Davies went up the other end and fed the puck across for Batch to tap in at the back door at 12:10. (4-1)
The Giants had one more chance to add a fifth goal before the first intermission but they couldn't connect when Sam Duggan sat for hooking.
The Giants maintained their three goal lead in the middle frame, with both Beskorowany and Kozun shutting down their opponents' attempts to notch up the scores further.
Centre ice was the focus of a memorable flashpoint when Giants' defenceman Sam Ruopp dropped the gloves with Devils' Sam Duggan, delighting the home crowd when their man got the takedown.
The Devils began their comeback early in the final period when Ruopp was sent to the box for high sticking and McNally brought the puck back in front of the net and forced it under Beskorowany's pads from close in to reduce the gap to two at 45:08. (4-2)
Marc McNulty (slashing) and Mark Cooper (hooking) took penalties that neither side could capitalise on before Coughler made it a grandstand finish when he slapped home a one-timer off Justin Crandall's feed from the edge of the left circle at 53:13. (4-3)
But Beskorowany and the Giants' defence shut the door in the closing stages to ensure there would be no overtime. And with Kozun pulled for the extra skater in the dying stages, Slater Doggett fired the puck into the empty net from centre ice at 58.46 to seal the deal and secure two points for Adam Keefe's men. (5-3)
The Belfast Giants complete their doubleheader against their title rivals when they take on the Devils in the second game of the weekend at The SSE Arena tonight, Saturday 5 February, at 7pm. Tickets are on sale HERE!