Piccinich double douses Flames in Guilford
A JJ Piccinich double and a third from Ben Lake saw the Stena Line Belfast Giants defeat the Guildford Flames 1-3 at the Spectrum on Wednesday night
The win secured hard earned league points from a gritty road game which entered its final period on a knife edge despite the visitors overwhelming dominance on the shot count.
Joel Neill reports.
The Belfast Giants arrived in Guildford hoping to carry the momentum of their recent form into a tricky midweek road trip, nestled in the twilight zone between Christmas and New Year.
It didn’t take long for them to open their account.
After decent early pressure on Flames goalie Kevin Lindskoug, Belfast’s Scott Conway sent the puck tape to tape from the right, teeing up JJ Piccinich in the low slot at 4:17. (0-1)
The Flames battled to survive a Spencer Trapp slashing call at 10:48 as the Giants camped out in the zone.
The visitors were by far the more dangerous throughout the opening 20 minutes- hitting the post and crossbar on their way to dominating the shots on goal count by 6-15.
Sam Ruopp’s interference penalty at 19:10 handed Belfast 1:10 on the kill to start the middle period.
Ruopp’s remaining seconds were far from the only penalty box action of the middle period as the game began to get scrappy.
Alex Yuill’s tripping call sent Belfast onto their second power play of the evening at 26:48, and despite going 0 for 2 they continued to look threatening in the zone.
In fact, the Giants continued to go to the net and cause problems for Lindskoug even when shorthanded. The Flames goalie was called into action during successive Flames power plays as Kevin Raine sat for roughing at 29:19, and Ciaran Long was called for tripping at 33:30.
JJ Piccinich perhaps should have had his second of the game during Raine’s penalty; breaking away into the offensive zone before being denied by Lindskoug who was excellent throughout.
The Giants’ third man-advantage of the game went the same way, as they failed to convert on a Jordan Cownie cross checking call at 37:11.
Brett Ferguson’s tripping penalty at 41:19 was Belfast’s fourth unsuccessful power play of the night, and with the pressure on it would be easy to think that a golden opportunity had gone begging.
But up stepped the in-form JJ Piccinich with a forced turnover in the Flames zone, snapping his stick in half with a shot from the left for his second goal unassisted at 45:19. (0-2)
This flipped a switch with the Guildford Flames, who poured forward on Tyler Beskorowany in the Giants crease. A Ferguson pass from behind the net was met on the edge of the blue paint by Ian Watters who pulled one back at 51:13. (1-2)
But the tension was short-lived as Ben Lake capitalised on a bad pass at the other end, crossing the front of goal from the right-hand side and roofing the puck at 52:22 (Assist: Mark Cooper). (1-3)
Belfast had one final bump in the road to navigate when Kevin Raine sat for slashing at 57:49, but a strong penalty kill and a late Flames slashing call (Ian Watters, 59:50) saw the visitors home with a valuable two Premier Sports Elite League points.
The final shots on goal count read 16-47 in favour of the men in Teal.
The Belfast Giants return home for New Year’s Eve, taking on the Dundee Stars at the SSE Arena this Friday 31st December at 4:00pm. Start your evening’s festivities with the coolest game in town. Tickets are ON SALE NOW.
Images - John Uwins.