Short Benched Giants dig deep for Victory on the road in Sheffield
The Stena Line Belfast Giants left South Yorkshire on Sunday evening with a 2-3 win over the Sheffield Steelers, despite being without the services of Kevin Raine, Mark Cooper, Sam Ruopp, Tyler Soy and Chad Butcher.
A late brace in the first period from Colby McAuley and Scott Conway was followed up with a third from David Goodwin on the power play early in the second, and despite a spirited comeback from the hosts, Adam Keefe’s side held out for victory through a combination of dogged defending and exceptional work from goalie Jackson Whistle.
Spectacular early goaltending from Whistle had kept the hosts at bay before the Giants survived an early penalty kill when Will Cullen was called for interference at 9:00.
Tensions rose at 13:57 when an encounter between Belfast’s Colby McAuley (roughing) and Sheffield’s Matt Petgrave (diving) saw both men sent to the boxes for a spell of 4 on 4.
McAuley was front and centre again at 18:51, ripping the puck towards goal from an impossible angle on the left of the goal line. It somehow ricocheted off Steelers goalie Matthew Greenfield’s shoulder on its way in for an astonishing unassisted opener. (0-1)
The air was well and truly sucked out of the Utilita Arena at 19:43 when Steve Owre fed Scott Conway in the mid slot for the visitors’ second. (0-2)
Giants Captain David Goodwin added a third on the power play at 22:00, wristing the puck through traffic as Mason Mitchell served a too many men call for the Steelers. (0-3)
It was then Belfast’s turn to have penalty troubles, as Colby McAuley was called for interference at 22:21. Sheffield swarmed the zone, but a highlight reel stop from Whistle held Brett Neumann at the back door.
The Giants were back at full strength for just over two minutes before Ciaran Long headed for an interference call of his own. This time, Sheffield broke their goose egg with a Brandon McNally tap-in from the edge of the crease at 26:56. (1-3)
Protests from Adam Keefe’s side earned Colby McAuley their third consecutive penalty for abuse of an official before the restart, but the Giants kill unit staved off the threat.
A Belfast power play opportunity came and went at 30:21 when Tomas Pitule was called for interference, and it was the Steelers who found the next goal when Brett Neumann struck from close range at 34:27 to bring them back to within one. (2-3)
As the numbers game began to show, the Sheffield Steelers turned the screw on the depleted Giants in the third, but the visitors held firm in their zone through the mid period, even turning away a power play as Mark Garside sat for slashing at 42:32.
Sebastien Piche rang the iron for Sheffield, shortly before Ciaran Long sent them onto the power play with a tripping call on Robert Dowd just under 9 minutes from time.
A herculean effort from Belfast’s defencemen and Whistle saw them through a nail-biting finale to a huge victory, as Steelers Coach Aaron Fox pulled his goaltender in favour of the extra skater and laid siege to the offensive zone with 2 minutes remaining.
The Stena Line Belfast Giants continue their road trip next weekend with visits to the Guildford Flames on Saturday 26th
November at 6:00pm, and the Coventry Blaze on Sunday 27th November at 5:30pm. Meanwhile, the Harness Friendship Four returns to The SSE Arena, Belfast! Tickets are on sale HERE!