Devils defeats Giants in a great come back encounter 4-3
This was a game that held everything. It was full of high expectations by the Giants’ faithful. It could, or better put should have defined Belfast’s season. However instead it left Giants’ fans wondering ‘what if?’
The must-win double hitter was against the Cardiff Devils. The way to put the Elite League title race back into the Giants’ hands, yet it ended in disappointment in a 3-4 loss
Giants Captain Adam Keefe (47) and enforcer
Giants Matt Nickerson (50) who finishes his checks
It has to be remembered that the Giants started the game without either of their enforcers – suspended Captain Adam Keefe and Matt Nickerson, a healthy scratch.
As well Rob Stewart, Giants’ bench coach was also missing from behind the back of the Giants’ players’ bench. This meant that Steve Thornton and former iconic player Shane Johnson took control of that area.
In the opening ten minutes the Giants played a full on, intense game of hustle and bustle. They fore-checked every Cardiff move and chased down every loose puck. No quarter was asked or given from either team. Hollywood could not have written a better script, particularly with the Giants’ new signing Jerome Leduc showing star skills on defense.
Leduc gave the Giants a 1-0 lead after netting his first Giants’ goal, assisted by David Rutherford and Mark Garside. The fans were delirious.
Chris Higgins (68) celebrates assisting on Forney’s goal
With 38 seconds remaining in the first period, Michael Forney doubled the lead for the home side, assisted by Blair Riley and Chris Higgins. He deflected Riley’s shot from the blue line into the bottom corner of the Devils’ net.
This gave the Giants a workable two-goal lead going into the second period. The Devils pressed vigorously but Belfast took full advantage of a powerplay with Josh Batch serving a two-minute interference call. Jerome Leduc netted his second of the night to extend the Giants’ lead to 3-0, assisted by Jim Vandermeer and Michael Forney at 29:04.
With the Giants riding high the tide started to change when Mark Richardson pulled one back for the Devils early in the final period. Joey Haddad picked out the Cardiff defense man with just over three minutes played in the final period making it 3-1.
Andrew Hotman (24) celebrates the Devils come back trail
It seemed trouble was brewing for a Giants’ victory when Cardiff’s forward Sean Bentivoglio made it a one-goal game with just over seven minutes left on the game clock. Bentivoglio’s pass from behind the net deflected off Derrick Walser’s skate and into the Giants’ goal.
If the game’s turning towards the Devils started with a trickle it was a raging torrent with four minutes to go in the contest. Joey Haddad netted the equalizer for the Devils, assisted by Patrick Asselin and Andrew Hotham.
The Giants’ hopes were finally dashed by Patrick Asselin. He scored the winner as Cardiff led for the first time and with just two minutes left to play in the game. His goal proved to be the game-winning goal and the Devils won 4-3 on the road in Belfast.
The remaining questions that Giants’ fans will be asking themselves is how did the Giants lose a three-goal lead, playing some of the best hockey they have played so far this season?
Why not close out a game with a three-goal cushion with only a period left to play? The blame cannot be laid with the forwards. They gave the team a three-goal lead. Why not stack the defensive effort by putting five players on the Giants’ side of the centre ice and catch the Devils on the break?
The Giants must will regroup and make a come back in the final games of the season by winning the second game of the Devils’ visit to Belfast on this Saturday evening. For them to have any confidence left for the play-offs, and any outside chance of beating the Devils to the Elite League Trophy they must beat the Devils in tonight’s game.
Belfast need to stop the opposition from scoring the ‘messy’ goals achieved by Cardiff on Friday’s game. They scrambled in front of Murphy’s goal making it impossible to see, let alone stop the puck.
As ever he played an outstanding game and kept the Giants in the hunt. Yet the Belfast Defense were trying to clear out the front of their net because normally anything any thing Murphy can see he generally stops.
However with a melee of players in his crease, whilst Murphy was trying to find the puck then secure it is just asking for trouble. The Giants must play for the full sixty minutes in every game to have chance for trophies this season or in the future
The final score was Belfast Giants 3-4 Cardiff Devils and not surprisingly the Giants’ Man of the Match was awarded to #5 Jerome Leduc..
Written by Wayne Hardman