We are Champions: Giants Clinch Elite League Title in Sheffield Shootout
The Stena Line Belfast Giants are back-to-back Premier Sports Elite League champions following today's shootout victory over the Sheffield Steelers. Joel Neill reports.
Giants’ forward Scott Conway was the man of the moment, sniping Steelers’ goalie Rok Stojanovic to keep League silverware in the land of the Giants for another year and notching up a second trophy win for the men in Teal, who were named Challenge Cup champions less than a month ago.
Tyler Beskorowany was called into action off the drop, turning away an early John Armstrong attempt as Marc Vallerand was called for hooking at 24s.
The Steelers continued to press short-handed, striking the post on a 2 on 1 before the Giants rallied on the break and Scott Conway fed Mark Cooper at the back door to open the scoring at 1:32 (Second assist: JJ Piccinich). (0-1)
Belfast absorbed consistent Steelers pressure and zone time throughout mid period, turning away decent offence and looking for their chance on the break.
Mark Garside hit the post inside the last five minutes, before Tyler Beskorowany robbed Martin Latal in the dying seconds with a diving stick save; a stop that would have grabbed headlines in any League in the world. The referees took another look, but the call was no goal as time elapsed.
The Steelers crowd was right back into the game when Tanner Eberle tied it from the top of the right circle with a rocket wrist shot at 20:38 (Assist: John Armstrong). (1-1)
The Giants, meanwhile, were knocked further onto the back foot at 22:58 when David Goodwin served a bench minor for too many men, sending them onto their first penalty kill of the game.
Ciaran Long was next to the box for holding at 29:39, as Rob Dowd cut inside to make an attempt on goal.
A desperate goal mouth scramble in front of Rok Stojanovic’s crease inside the last two minutes was probably Belfast’s best opportunity of the period.
The Giants were much improved off the drop in the third period, finding sustained zone time and looks on Stojanovic across the opening minutes.
Davy Phillips sat for tripping at 50:41, giving the Giants extended zone time but nothing to trouble Stojanovic.
There was an official review for a Steelers goal following a collision in front of Beskorowany as the Steelers pressed, and the net was knocked off its moorings, but, after a lengthy look, the call was no goal.
After the final buzzer, and as 5 minutes of 3 on 3 OT loomed, tensions boiled over between the sides leading to skirmishes across the ice.
John Armstrong came close to clinching victory for the Steelers just 54 seconds into OT, but he was denied off the 2 on 1 rush by Beskorowany.
It took a sudden death shootout for the game, and the Belfast Giants’ 2021-22 EIHL Championship, to be decided courtesy of Scott Conway’s finish on Stojanovic.
As gloves and helmets dropped to the ice, there was pandemonium in the away end, right across Belfast and beyond.
It will be a very Good Friday for the Teal Army as The Championship party comes back to home ice next Friday 15th April when the Sheffield Steelers visit The SSE Arena, Belfast at 7:00pm, followed by the conclusion of the EIHL regular season on Saturday, when the Coventry Blaze skate into town. Tickets to the party of the year are on sale HERE!
Photos by Dean Woolley.