Giants feel Panthers’ overtime bite
The never say die Stena Line Belfast Giants found a way to inch themselves back into the game with just thirty seconds left on the game clock whilst facing a two goal deficit via Nottingham’s total control of most of the first two periods of play.
Nottingham achieved the flow in play purely by being the first to the puck and totally smothering the Giants offensive tendencies. Belfast were only allowed six shots on Craig Kowalski, Panthers puck stopper, in the opening period and slightly more in the middle stanza where they scored their first goal through Craig Peacock.
The Giant’s apparent lack of powerplay goal scoring efficiency was evident throughout the game. By contrast, the Panthers scored on both of their first two man advantages through David Ling and Anthony Stewart to jump into a well deserved two-goal cushion.
Belfast seemed to lack that goal scoring strategy and know-how but took steps to change the momentum of the game with only seconds left to play in the open period. Giants captain, Adam Keefe and Panthers enforcer Guy Lepine, dropped their gloves and went full on in a vigorous two-man dust-up to the delight of the Odyssey Arena Belfast fans.
The second period started with both combatants cooling their heels for five minutes each. However the flow of the encounter remained tight throughout till very late in the game. The burning questions was would the third period produce a come back with only the one goal separating the two teams but neither team could find that elusive next goal.
Then pulled Murph from between the pipes for an extra attacker
Belfast coach Doug Christiansen took the final gamble by pulling Stephen Murphy from between the Giants pipes for an extra attacker, which seems to always backfire for the Giants. Well that was before Greg Stewart joined the team and he pulled a masterful stroke. His first shot hit the post and then diving full length to reach the rebound Stewart flipped it past Kowalski to tie the game up with 30 seconds remaining on the clock to send the game into overtime.
The crowd went wild like they just won the Stanley Cup. Surely that would have been the momentum to win in overtime, however the extra time, four on four hockey failed to find a winner with the game to be decided by a penalty shootout.
The Panthers converted all three of theirs, whilst the Giant’s Jeff Mason was the only player to score. It was the visitors who picked up the extra point. This proved to be the reversal of the previous Odyssey played game against the Panthers where the Giants picked up the extra point.
That win for Nottingham ties up the season head on head against the Giants with both teams having two wins and losses each against each other.
Talking to the Giants Greg Stewart before the game he said he would try to bring something special to the game. However in one of the dressings rooms pre-game it simply stated. “ Which Stewart will be the best on ice tonight?” Well the Panthers NHLer Anthony Stewart scored their second goal but undoubtedly Belfast’s Greg Stewart goal was the score of the night if not the Giants season so far.
Doug Christiansen had this to say. “Was it a point won or lost? My feeling when playing at home you always want to win your home games and at least split your way games if you intend to be competitive in the Elite League.
The way the game was played between two very close teams and to fall behind by two goals; it showed Great Spirit and belief to battle back and tie up the game. I’m very proud and happy we got the point however we have to made sure that some of those little things that didn’t get done early in the contest as they did late in game don’t happen again.
It is such a fine line between winning and losing against any team but especial against the top contenders in our league. Winning or losing against the Nottingham Panthers, just let me remind you this is the third time in just four encounters that it’s taken overtime or more to find a winner. That just how tight it is! To finalize we just have to get the job done earlier in the game is how I see it” Concluded Christiansen
Man of the Match Giants Greg Stewart commented following the game. “This might be the only weekend off for the Giants all this season after playing on a Friday night only. We need a break after battling hard for a full sixty-five minutes plus against a very solid team.
We made a couple of defensive errors to give the Panthers a two-goal lead in our barn. After the first period we were all disappoint by showing poor discipline. They have an excellent powerplay unit, which works very well especially on their first two opportunities. We knew going into the game we had to maintain our discipline so another reason to be disappoint with ourselves.
We really had to dig deep to get something from the game. We never gave up. Chipping away to get back into the encounter. Once Peacock scored it became a one goal game but Craig Kowalski, Man Of The Match, made it very difficult for us to score.
The Panthers cleared the puck quickly from their goalmouth area, which made it difficult for us to get the second shot or recycle the rebound. I was very lucky after tipping the puck against the post on the first shot; the rebound just lay there. I dove full length to reach it and lifted the puck beyond Kowalski’s reach to score the tying goal.
Now finally I get a full weekend to study for my MBA I’m working on whilst playing for the team. Maybe I can even catch up?
The Stena Line Belfast Giants are next at home on Friday the 14th of Dec 2012 against the Cardiff Devils however play way to the Fife Flyers and Edinburgh Capitals this weekend where all four point are critical to maintain their current first place status.
Written by Wayne Hardman