Will Cullen and Scott Conway put the hosts ahead 2-0 before a third-period comeback from the Czech Champions left the game tied after three periods of hockey. The sides couldn’t be separated through overtime despite the Giants killing a major penalty, before Mark Cooper’s goal and Peyton Jones’ save in sudden death sealed the deal.
Darik Angeli fired a warning shot on Třinec goalie Ondrej Kacetl in the seventh minute after skating from behind the net and wristing the puck on the turn, striking the nearside post.
Belfast grew in confidence as the period progressed, and they were rewarded at 9:08 when Steve Owre found Will Cullen, who ripped a one-timer through traffic from the right side of the blue line. (1-0)
Jan Zahradnicek’s hooking call at 16:15 provided the Giants with their first power play of the game. The hosts kept the puck in the zone and did give Kacetl some trouble in the crease, but their elusive CHL power play goal still evaded them.
Hearts collectively sank across The SSE Arena in the second minute of the middle period as Colby McAuley (high sticking) and Ben Lake (faceoff violation) headed to the box within seconds of each other. The scintillating penalty kill that followed almost took the roof off, and Scott Conway came close to adding the cherry on top with a breakaway effort which sailed over the crossbar.
However, five minutes later, he decided to do it on the power play.
With Petr Vrana in the box for high sticking, the Giants’ power play unit found their spark. Moving the puck well inside the blue line, Chad Butcher fed Conway who pulled the trigger from the left circle at 29:45. (2-0)
Daniel Vozenilek’s high stick on Tyler Soy left the Giants with another man-advantage to close out the period.
Milan Doudera was called for interference at 43:46, as Třinec began to grow more desperate for their way back into the game. The visitors pressed whilst one man short and did manage to put pressure on Giants’ goalie Peyton Jones- who had been outstanding throughout the evening.
The Giants weathered a Tyler Soy elbowing penalty at 46:37, but the visitors found their opener at even strength when Petr Vrana roofed an impressive shot past Jones from the left circle at 50:10. (2-1)
Oceláři Třinec were able to roll their lines with a larger squad in the late stages of the game, and it showed when Tomas Marcinko finally found a way past Jones at 57:39, following a sustained period of pressure in the Giants zone. (2-2)
Things went from bad to worse for Belfast as Sam Ruopp took a 5+game for checking to the head in the dying moments, but Adam Keefe’s side held on for overtime.
The Giants were heroic on the penalty kill as Třinec took the drop with a 4-on-3 powerplay advantage. A Ben Lake diving block in the first minute highlighted the side’s dogged defending, and goaltender Peyton Jones was stellar moments later- stretching to close off his right post with a pad save.
Ocelari Trinec took a time out with 2:50 remaining, but Belfast held on for the shootout.
Peyton Jones was the hero for Belfast after five rounds of sudden death, turning way Libor Hudacek’s effort shortly after Mark Cooper had tucked his shot home to clinch the side’s first win of the year in the Champions Hockey League.
Lake, Butcher and Gilbert had also lit the lamp throughout a marathon shootout.
The Stena Line Belfast Giants kick off their domestic campaign next weekend, as the Challenge Cup group stage begins with a home and away double against the Fife Flyers.
Todd Dutiaume’s Fife Flyers travel to The SSE Arena, Belfast on Saturday 17th September (7:00pm), before the Giants make the trip to Kirkcaldy on Sunday 18th (6:00pm) to complete the home and away. Tickets for next week’s home game can be found HERE!