Giants restart the comeback for the playoff run and hopefully still chances for Elite League tittle

 

Giants make it a clean sweep netting four vital points over the weekend 25-26 Feb 2017

Derrick Walser (43) against NottinghamPlayer Coach Derrick Walser (43) 

Coach Derrick Walser and Belfast’s Captain Adam Keefe were well aware that the Giants could play better than they had proved over the last few weeks.

Elite Ice Hockey League - Belfast Giants v Braehead Clan

Adam Keefe Giants Captain (47)

Both acknowledged that they ‘awarded’ the Devils with the Elite League trophy for it is now out of the Giants’ hands.

All Belfast can do is win their remaining games in the regular season and hope that the Cardiff Devils trip up on the way. Previously Walser and Keefe had preached that the best approach was to ‘keep it simple’ by playing their game, not the opposition’s.

First up last weekend was the Fife Flyers’ match. They were playing five players short game with their top scorer suspended. Would that make the Giants’ task easier? Probably not.

Steve Saviano (13) smilingSteve Saviano (12) 

Giants’ goals coming from various lines and four from Steve Saviano who helped the Belfast side on their way to an important home victory. In the meantime the Cardiff Devils matched the win keeping Belfast in third place, seven points behind Cardiff as league leaders.

Belfast Giants v Fife Fyers - Elite Ice Hockey LeagueMichael Forney (14) celebrates with Captain Adam Keefe (47) & others after scoring 

Michael Forney opened Belfast’s the scoring with a wrist shot. It  ripped high into the Flyers’ net early in the opening period,  following a great pass into the slot assisted by Adam Keefe.

Belfast Giants v Fife Fyers - Elite Ice Hockey League

Steve Saviano (12) celebrates scoring

Steve Saviano netted his first goal and the Giants’ second with a fine solo goal. Saviano picked up his own rebound and skated around the net to score on a wraparound. The Flyers worked hard doubling their efforts which resulted in them scoring through Sebastien Thinel who bundled the puck past Stephen Murphy after a messy goalmouth scramble.

Elite Ice Hockey League - Belfast Giants v Braehead ClanDavid Rutherford (91) salutes the crowd after the Giants score 

With just nineteen seconds remaining of the opening period, Saviano extended the Giants’ lead after David Rutherford picked out the forward for his second goal of the game, which ended the scoring in the open period.

Fife seemed to come out after the period break fired up for action. They netted first in the second period to bring themselves back to within one goal of Belfast’s position. They scored through Carol Finucci who deflected the puck into the Giants’ net following a shot from Thomas Muir.

Belfast regained their dominance by pulling two goals clear of their opponents once again with less than one minute gone in the final period. James Desmarais passed the puck through the Flyers’ defense to Steve Saviano who again finished well and posted his hat trick on the powerplay.

Belfast Giants v Fife Fyers - Elite Ice Hockey LeagueGiants score again 

New signing Jerome Leduc also proved his worth. He scored for Belfast and restored Belfast’s three-goal advantage with a fierce wrist shot past the disgruntled Owen and into the Flyers’ net.

 

Well if one was good then two was even better. Leduc grabbed his second of the game and his fourth in a Giants’ jersey after both Forney and Higgins battled for the puck around the net to give the defenseman a simple finish.

Steve Saviano #1Steve Saviano (12) whilst icing for VAXJO Lakers 

Steve Saviano netted his fourth of the game in the dying seconds of the game assisted by Derrick Walser and James Desmarais. At last the Giants had returned to winning ways in Belfast.

So the final score was Belfast Giants 7-2 Fife Flyers and not surprisingly the Giants ‘Man of the Match’ was #12 Steve Saviano.

He stated after the game that he was pleased with both the win and his four goals. The best part of the victory was to see the Giants return to success and looking forward to continuing that result in Nottingham on the following Sunday afternoon.

Corey Neilson Panthers Players Coach newCorey Neilson Panther long standing Head Coach 

Pre-game, Corey Neilson stated, “the Giants had the Panthers’ number this season but we (Nottingham) are preparing some new moves in practice this week to try and change the results that Belfast seem to achieve playing us”

Well Belfast still defeated the Panthers 4-3 in Nottingham on Sunday to stay in the hunt for the Elite League title with a four-point weekend. The win was the Giants’ second in as many days following Saturday’s 7-2 home win against Fife.

It looked like Neilson’s new moves were going to pay off when long standing Giants’ nemesis David Clarke fired past Murphy early in the opening period assisted by Dan Spang and Stephen Schultz.

Belfast Giants v Fife Fyers - Elite Ice Hockey League

Blair Riley (25) against Fife controlling the puck

However the Giants seemed to enjoy coming from behind as Blair Riley equalized, assisted by Chris Higgins and Ryan Martinelli with just over five minutes left in the opening period which ended the scoring in the period.

Belfast Giants v Fife Fyers - Elite Ice Hockey League

Matt Towe (74) against Fife

Matt Towe, who is gaining more ice time rewarded the team with the go ahead goal after only eighty two seconds of play in the middle period assisted by David Rutherford and Brandon Benedict.

This second period witnessed more fireworks when Jim Vandermeer dropped the gloves with Brian McGrattan as the two former NHLers went toe-to-toe.

Jim Vandermeer #1Jim Vandermeer (9) in action for Belfast 

That stand-off appeared to spark the Giants further as they extended their lead when James Desmarais netted on the powerplay, assisted by David Rutherford.

Giants James Desmarais (79)

James Desmarais (79) nets for the Giants 

Nottingham was not finished. They dug deep which resulted in Matt Carter pulling one back for the Panthers when the forward netted late in the second period, assisted by Alex Nikiforuk and Chris Lawrence.

Stena Line Belfast Giants V Fife Flyers in the Elite Ice Hockey League

Steve Saviano (212) nets for Belfast

After scoring four goals against Fife one might have thought Saviano’s powder had run out. Think again. Only eleven seconds later Steve Saviano scored on the powerplay to restore the Giants’ two-goal lead.

With a third period push the Panthers seem to excel. They took full advantage of their powerplay and Stevie Lee scored to bring tension to the Giants as the Panthers were once again on the prowl.

Michael Quesnele #1

Michael Quenele (8) nets a goal

Further fireworks developed in the dying minutes of the game as Nottingham upped the pressure on the Giants when Panthers’ Stevie Lee and the Giants’ Michael Quesnele dropped their gloves.

However the Giants rallied in the dying minutes of the contest to complete an impressive victory on the road against the Panthers.

A footnote to the Giants’ victory was Fife’s overtime win over Sheffield to push the Steelers to third place on the same points tally as the Giants. This gives Belfast a glimmer of hope that someone might trip up the Devils in the same way before the end of the season regular season games.

The game ended with the final score Nottingham Panthers 3-4 Belfast Giants. The Giants ‘Man of the Match’ was awarded to #88 Ryan Martinelli.

The Giants return to action again on Saturday 4th March 2017 against the Manchester Storm – face-off 7.00 PM at Belfast’s SSE Arena.

 

 

Photos Credit Karl Denham

 

Written by Wayne Hardman

 

 

 Elite Ice Hockey League Standings 2016/17
After Games of 26/2/17    
GP Regulation OT/PS OT/PS Regulation PTS Current
Wins Wins Losses Losses Streak
Cardiff*

45

27

7

3

8

71

2 wins
Belfast*

45

25

5

4

11

64

2 wins
Sheffield*

45

26

4

3

12

63

1 loss
Braehead*

44

22

1

3

18

49

5 wins
Nottingham

43

18

3

6

16

48

2 losses
Fife

45

17

4

3

21

45

1 win
Manchester

44

15

1

7

21

39

5 losses
Coventry

47

12

6

3

26

39

1 win
Dundee

44

11

4

6

23

36

1 loss
Edinburgh

44

10

5

2

27

32

1 loss

 

*Qualified for Play-Offs (top 8 qualify)

 

 

 Gardiner Conference Standings 2016-2017
After games of 25/2/17
GP Regulation OT/PS OT/PS Regulation PTS Current
Wins Wins Losses Losses Streak
Braehead**

27

20

0

1

6

41

4 wins

Manchester

28

11

1

3

13

27

2 losses

Dundee

26

9

3

3

11

27

1 loss

Fife

27

10

1

3

13

25

6 losses

Edinburgh

26

7

5

0

14

24

2 wins

 

**Gardiner Conference Champions

 

 

 Erhardt Conference Standings 2016-2017
After games of 26/2/17
GP Regulation OT/PS OT/PS Regulation PTS Current
Wins Wins Losses Losses Streak
Cardiff

28

16

3

3

6

41

1 win

Belfast

26

12

4

2

8

34

1 win

Sheffield

26

13

1

2

10

30

1 win

Nottingham

29

11

2

4

12

30

2 losses

Coventry

29

3

4

3

19

17

1 loss

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Giants have it all to do and need help from others!

Get back on that saddle and start making it team simple

 After an horrific weekend of results the Giants have to face getting back on the saddle – of success.  ‘Keeping it simple’ is a must. The team seems to have dug itself into a hole after chasing the league title. This is the time in the season when coach and captain see what the players they signed are capable of and how they step up to the plate.

Elite Ice Hockey League - Belfast Giants v Cardiff Devils

Giants fans expect better from players on the ice. Who is going to step up a lead the team to trophies? 

There has been no trophy so far this season, nor for the last two for that matter. The Giants have an outside chance if things fall their way, of lifting the Elite League Trophy and if they are extremely fortunate.

 A plus factor is that the Giants are relatively injury free for the run up to the playoffs. They can assemble their best grouping or lines of player combinations to practice what they did best in the several good winning runs they had this season. They can also establish which players played well together and may be in consideration for a new contract next season.

On paper the Giants are a very skilled outfit and have the ability to execute well if they keep it simple as a team. The following comments from both captain and coach are have both meaning and substance.

Elite Ice Hockey League - Belfast Giants v Braehead Clan

Adam Keefe (47) on the attack for the Giants

Captain of the Stena Line Belfast Giants Adam Keefe has stated that they must  “Get ‘back to basics’ for Saturday’s home clash with the Fife Flyers”. The Giants now lie in third place in the Elite League and are seven points behind the Cardiff Devils with nine games still to play.

Elite Hockey League - Belfast Giants v Braehead Clan

 

Adam Keefe (47) pressing hard towards to net

Keefe continued “The past few weeks have proved to be a tough period for the Giants rounded off with defeats to the Cardiff Devils. We need to get back to the way we were playing in December”, said Keefe. “Back then we were playing with confidence and we need to get that good feeling in the dressing room which we have lost over the past few weeks.

Adam Keefe (47) in a tussleAdam Keefe (47) getting physical plus playing a gritty game 

We want to focus on doing the little things right and get back to playing fast paced hockey, playing physical and smothering teams, the way teams have done to us in the last few weeks.”

With just nine games left in the regular season for the Giants Keefe knows the importance of momentum with Belfast needing to collect as many points as possible in order to compete with the Cardiff Devils down the stretch, starting Saturday night against Fife at Belfast’s SSE Arena.

Adam Keefe #2 2

Belfast Captain Adam Keefe (47) demanding more from the Giants squad

Keefe went on to comment, “Unfortunately we have handed Cardiff the title ‘to lose’ so to speak. It is out of our hands – all we can do is win all our games. For us, we are focusing on Fife and we want to revenge that big lopsided defeat in Fife.

Adam KeefeAdam Keefe (47) says give the fans something to cheer about like winning a trophy 

We know they can play – they play hard and physical. They can put the puck in the back of the net. We are going to have to be on top of our game on Saturday. This week is about hard work and getting back to the basics.”

DerrickWalserPlayer Coach for the Belfast Giants Derrick Walser (43)

Those were the Captain’s thoughts on the Giants’ run up to the close of the Elite League regular season play. Meanwhile Coach Derrick Walser also had a say: “I want the team to redeem themselves on Saturday at home against the Fife Flyers.

 Elite Ice Hockey League - Belfast Giants v Cardiff Devils

Derrick Walser (43) working the puck agaist the Devils

Despite the two losses to the Cardiff Devils who are the best team in the league and played really well. We had opportunities to win both games. We made some critical mistakes but we are looking at how we can fix those and how to come back from that.

Derek Walser (43) against Fife

 

Derrick Walser (43) demanding his players do better against Fife this time out 

It’s not easy when you have had a tough weekend like we just had (against Cardiff)” said Walser. “We’ve had a great year until now – our record speaks for itself. We had a little bump in the road. It’s not over but right now we need to fix a few issues and get back to winning ways.”

Belfast sits in third position in the Elite League standings, seven points behind the Devils having played the same number of games. A win on Saturday would get the Belfast side back on track.

The Giants returned to the ice on Tuesday to begin a week’s worth of practice ahead of Saturday’s home game against Fife and want to return to winning ways as soon as possible.

Derrick Walser (43) against NottinghamDerrick Walser (43) making the puck do things his way against the Panthers 

Walser continued, “Right now we are being positive and looking to get back on track. We want to come out, play our game again and make sure we are firing on all cylinders”. He wants a better performance from all his players on Saturday at the SSE Arena. “I want us to redeem ourselves and play the right way – a much tougher and grittier game.”

With some of the Giants’ import players on a two-year contract it may make the choice of a new squad for next season’s lineup difficult at this point. However it also gives the current line-up a chance to catch the eye of both coach and management in the remaining games of the regular season and playoffs to secure a place for 2017-2018.

There is all to play for, on several fronts in the remaining games – win or lose.

Wayne Hardman Sports Reporter

Written by Wayne Hardman

 

   
GP Regulation OT/PS OT/PS Regulation PTS Current
Wins Wins Losses Losses Streak
Cardiff*

43

26

6

3

8

67

1 loss
Sheffield*

43

25

4

3

11

61

4 wins
Belfast*

43

23

5

4

11

60

3 losses
Nottingham

41

18

3

6

14

48

1 win
Braehead

43

21

1

3

18

47

4 wins
Fife

43

16

4

3

20

43

3 losses
Manchester

42

15

1

6

20

38

3 losses
Coventry

45

12

5

3

25

37

2 wins
Dundee

43

11

4

6

22

36

2 wins
Edinburgh

42

9

5

1

27

29

2 losses

 

*Qualified for Play-Offs (top 8 qualify)

 

 Gardiner Conference Standings 2016-2017
After games of 19/2/17
GP Regulation OT/PS OT/PS Regulation PTS Current
Wins Wins Losses Losses Streak
Braehead

26

19

0

1

6

39

3 wins

Manchester

27

11

1

3

12

27

1 loss

Dundee

25

9

3

3

10

27

2 wins

Fife

27

10

1

3

13

25

6 losses

Edinburgh

25

6

5

0

14

22

1 win

 

 

 Erhardt Conference Standings 2016-2017
After games of 21/2/17
GP Regulation OT/PS OT/PS Regulation PTS Current
Wins Wins Losses Losses Streak
Cardiff

27

15

3

3

6

39

1 loss

Belfast

25

11

4

2

8

32

2 losses

Nottingham

27

11

2

4

10

30

1 win

Sheffield

25

12

1

2

10

28

1 loss

Coventry

28

3

4

3

18

17

1 win

 

 

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Devils score a go ahead goal to defeat the Giants once again !

Cardiff snatch the go ahead goal to beat Giants once again !

 To show pride, and give the Giants’ fans something to cheer about Belfast tried their best. Yet once again the Devils showed their resolve by downing the home team 3-2

Elite Ice Hockey League - Belfast Giants v Cardiff DevilsThe SSE Arena in high expectation of a Giants victory over Cardiff

Belfast showed remarkable strength of character coming back from a two-goal deficit. The Devils’ Andrew Hotham had other ideas as to who was going to win this game. He grabbed the winning goal for Cardiff in the final period to earn them the second win of the weekend.

Elite Ice Hockey League - Belfast Giants v Cardiff Devils

Andrew Hotman (24) celebrates with his Cardiff Devils team mates on scoring a goal

Coming out of the traps on fire, not missing a beat from Friday night’s victory the Devils took the lead early after Guillaume Doucet scored his 19th goal of the season, assisted by Joey Martin and Chris Jones. That ended the scoring in the opening period

Elite Ice Hockey League - Belfast Giants v Cardiff Devils

Patrick Asselin  (23) nets the Devils goal to give them a two goal lead

Showing the same determination Cardiff’s Patrick Asselin doubled the Devils’ lead after about a minute played in the second period with a powerplay goal, assisted by Andrew Hotham and Layne Ulmer. However the Giants battled back with two goals in as many minutes at the end of the middle period. It was Blair Riley who dug deepest by pulling one back for the home side with a powerplay strike late in the second period assisted by Chris Higgins and Jerome Leduc. If one was good then a tying goal was even better.

 Elite Ice Hockey League - Belfast Giants v Cardiff Devils

Chris Higgins (68) assist on Blair Riley come back goal

The referee awarded a penalty shot to Belfast that David Rutherford netted. He leveled the score outsmarting Cardiff netminder Ben Bowns in the dying minutes of the middle period.

Elite Ice Hockey League - Belfast Giants v Cardiff DevilsDavid Rutherford (91) beats Ben Bowns (33) in the Devils nets 

Into the final period the Devils got off to the best possible start as Andrew Hotham regained the lead for his team at 41:53, assisted by Layne Ulmer. Hotham’s goal came on the powerplay with referee Hogarth sending Blair Riley to the penalty box for a high sticking call.

 The Devils withstood a third period onslaught from the Giants to close out an important win in Belfast, their second in as many nights. After the final whistle was blown both teams saw reason to continue the tension with Cardiff’s Ben Bowns and the Giants’ Jim Vandermeer actually trading punches.

Fortunately calm prevailed, not before the officials listed a number of players, from both teams ten-minute match penalties. The final disciplinary outcome will be heard in the weekly Elite League’s hearing. It will confirm any game suspensions following the players’ conduct after Saturday’s game.

The Giants return to action on 25 February on Saturday against the Fife Flyers – face-off 7.00 PM at the SSE Arena Belfast before facing the Nottingham Panthers away on Sunday. Tickets for Saturday’s home game are on sale now online at ticketmaster.ie as well as from the SSE Arena box office until face-off either in person or by calling 028 9073 9074.

So the Final Score ended up Belfast Giants 2-3 Cardiff Devils and the Giants Man of the Match was#12 Steve Saviano

Written By Wayne Hardman

 Elite Ice Hockey League Standings 2016/17
                   
  GP Regulation OT/PS OT/PS Regulation PTS   Current  
    Wins Wins Losses Losses     Streak  
                   
Cardiff*

42

26

6

3

7

67

  8 wins  
Belfast*

43

23

5

4

11

60

  3 losses  
Sheffield*

42

24

4

3

11

59

  3 wins  
Braehead

43

21

1

3

18

47

  4 wins  
Nottingham

40

17

3

6

14

46

  1 loss  
Fife

43

16

4

3

20

43

  3 losses  
Manchester

42

15

1

6

20

38

  3 losses  
Dundee

43

11

4

6

22

36

  2 wins  
Coventry

44

11

5

3

25

35

  1 win  
Edinburgh

40

9

5

1

25

29

  1 win  

 

 Gardiner Conference Standings 2016-2017
After games of 19/2/17              
  GP Regulation OT/PS OT/PS Regulation PTS   Current  
    Wins Wins Losses Losses     Streak  
                   
Braehead

26

19

0

1

6

39

 

3 wins

 
Manchester

27

11

1

3

12

27

 

1 loss

 
Dundee

25

9

3

3

10

27

 

2 wins

 
Fife

27

10

1

3

13

25

 

6 losses

 
Edinburgh

25

6

5

0

14

22

 

1 win

 

 

 

 Erhardt Conference Standings 2016-2017
After games of 19/2/17              
  GP Regulation OT/PS OT/PS Regulation PTS   Current  
    Wins Wins Losses Losses     Streak  
                   
Cardiff

26

15

3

3

5

39

 

6 wins

 
Belfast

25

11

4

2

8

32

 

2 losses

 
Sheffield

25

12

1

2

10

28

 

1 loss

 
Nottingham

26

10

2

4

10

28

 

1 loss

 
Coventry

28

3

4

3

18

17

 

1 win

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Giants can and must do better !

 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

adam-keefe-47

Giants Captain Adam Keefe (47) and enforcer

Giants Matt Nickerson (50) shows whythe Giants signed him

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.

Rob-Stewart-Interview-450x235Giants Assistant Coach Rob Stewart 

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.

Elite Ice Hockey League - Belfast Giants v Cardiff DevilsSteve Thornton & Shane Johnson are acting Giants bench coaches for the Cardiff Game

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.

Elite Ice Hockey League - Belfast Giants v Cardiff DevilsGiants new signing and Man Of The Match Jerome Leduc (5) after scoring two goals 

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.

 Elite Ice Hockey League - Belfast Giants v Cardiff Devils

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.

Elite Ice Hockey League - Belfast Giants v Cardiff DevilsNew signing Jerome Leduc (5) celabrates with Giants bench after scoring his second goal 

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.

Elite Ice Hockey League - Belfast Giants v Cardiff Devils

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.

Giants All Star Puck Stopper Stephen Murphy

Murphy in Action

 

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

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Giants now face must win double hitter!

Giants enjoy victory then an aggravating defeat over the weekend

 Belfast’s lack luster defeat to Cardiff in the second leg of the Challenge Cup means another possible cup lost to the Giants’ organization. There are only two cups left to play for now – the League and the Playoff Trophy .

 A familiar saying goes something like this,  “the best course of action after coming off your horse is to get back on and try a little harder”.

 So the Giants got back on the horse and tried a bit harder. They did this by moving into first place in the Elite League standings with a 6-3 victory against the Dundee Stars on Saturday in Belfast. With that victory the Giants then sat in first place, one point ahead of the Cardiff Devils who had played two games fewer.

Belfast Giants v Dundee Stars - Elite Ice Hockey League

Derrick Walser (43) celebrates with teammates after the Giants score

In the winning match against Dundee Stars player coach Derrick Walser opened the scoring, pouncing on a rebound and firing home the puck assisted by James Desmarais and Colin Shields.

Belfast Giants v Braehead Clan - exhibition gameBlair Riley (25) nets with 1.5 seconds left on clock

 The Stars’ Justin Faryna equalized with a mid-air finish after Stephen Murphy had made the save from Felix-Antoine Poulin’s shot. With only 1.5 seconds remaining in the first period, David Rutherford fed the puck to Blair Riley at the back post for a important goal just before the buzzer.

David Rutherford (91)

David Rutherford (91) nets the go ahead goal

Dundee’s Cale Tanaka made it 2-2 on the night, assisted by Joey Sides and Cameron McGiffin. However the Giants regained the lead once again with a great finish from David Rutherford midway through the second period.

It was that Dundee man Justin Faryna who grabbed his second of the game with a cool finish right in front of the net from a Kevin Hart pass. The Giants’ player protests that Blair Riley had been obstructed on the play were disregarded and the game was tied at the end of two periods of play.

Quesnele-1

Michael Quesnele (8) nets for the Giants

In the final period Michael Quesnele took advantage of a rebound off Matt Nickerson’s shot to give the Giants a 4-3 lead. The Giants’  Jim Vandermeer unleashed a cannon of a slap shot which rifled into the Stars’ net, assisted by Chris Higgins and Blair Riley.

Belfast Giants v Dundee Stars - Elite Ice Hockey League

Jim Vandermeer (9) celebrates with Colin Shilds (19)

In the end the Giants cruised to victory following an empty net goal in the final few minutes of the game when David Rutherford assisted Alex Foster.

Elite Ice Hockey League - Belfast Giants v Edinburgh Capitals

 Alex Foster (23) secures the game with an empty net score

After a thrilling game the final score was Belfast Giants 6-3 Dundee Stars and the Giants’ Man of the Match was awarded to #91 David Rutherford.

Elite Ice Hockey League - Belfast Giants vs Coventry Blaze

Jim Vandermeer (9) takks about Team Plan

The Giants’ Jim Vandermeer spoke after the Dundee game stating, “We just stick to our game plan which seems to work.”  Both Vandermeer and player coach Derrick Walser have extensive NHL experience which is the backbone of the Giants’ defensive core if -not the team’s. Coming from behind shows commitment to the squad’s game plan and beliefs.

The Giants had a day off before travelling to Fife to take on the Flyers who are having a very competitive season.

With everything to play for the Giants fell to a 9-5 defeat despite battling back to level terms from a 4-1 deficit. A dominant final performance by Fife ended the Giants’ seven game league winning streak.

Following the weekend’s results, the Giants now sit second place again, three points behind next weekend’s opponents the Cardiff Devils.

Brooks (49) scores for Fife

Brendan Brooks starts the Fife machine rolling

In that Fife game, the Flyers’ Brendan Brooks struck first when the game clock had only ticked into the third minute of play. He was assisted by Philippe Paquet and Mathew Sisca.  Belfast’s David Rutherford brought the Giants level with a goal with just over six minutes left to play in the opening period assisted by Jeff Mason and Colin Shields.

David Rutherford (91) celebrates scoring against the Steelers

David Rutherford (91) happy about scoring

The Flyers’ Justin Fox, then Chase Schaber gave the hosts a 3-1 lead at the end of the first period. Fox netted, assisted by Ryan Dingle and Sebastien Thinel. Then Fife’s player Schaber’s goal came seconds from the end of the period assisted by Russ Moyer and Brendan Brooks.

The Flyers’ Ryan Dingle gave them a three goal cushion with just over two minutes played in the second period with the opening goal of the second period, assisted by Carlo Finucci.

Quesnele-1

The Giants cameback began in earnest with Michael Quesnele firing Belfast’s second of the game, assisted by Brandon Benedict and Matt Towe. Blair Riley brought the Belfast side within one with a powerplay goal, assisted by Chris Higgins and David Rutherford.

Elite Ice Hockey League - Belfast Giants v Edinburgh Capitals

Colin Shields (19) nets for Belfast to tie score

Colin Shields, assisted by David Rutherford grabbed an equalizing goal for Belfast. With the match tied at 4-4 at the end of forty minutes of play it left the third period to find a winner for either team.

Challenge Cup Quarter Final - Belfast Giants v Manchester Storm

Blair Riley (25) always ready to score

The Giants were not finished yet as Blair Riley gave the Giants the lead for the first time in this game. He scored on the Giants’ second powerplay goal of the night, assisted by Michael Forney and Chris Higgins.

 

That score ignited the Flyers who regrouped with Ryan Dingle’s goal, assisted by Kyle Haines levelling the score. With the bit between his teeth Philippe Paquet gave the Flyers a 6-5 lead when he scored assisted by Brendan Brooke and Mathew Sisca.

If the Giants could score on the powerplay then Fife could as well Brendan Brooks netted on a Fife powerplay, assisted by Richard Jackman and Russ Moyer to extend Fife’s lead.

jim-vandermeer-9-jackson-whistle-1-vs-the-storm

Giants pull Whistle (1) for an extra attacker

 

With the Giants desperately in need of a goal, Belfast netminder Jackson Whistle was pulled for the extra out skater and, despite piling pressure on the home side, the Flyers scored an empty net goal in the final minutes of the game through Russ Moyer, assisted by Brendan Brooks. Chase Schaber completed the scoring with the Flyers’ ninth goal of the night.

The next game on the Giants’ agenda could be one of the defining double hitters of the season especially as they are home and in the SSE Arena. After the defeat in Fife, Belfast now sit in second place again, three points behind Cardiff Devils whilst playing one more game than the Devils in the Elite League standings.

The Devils’ visit to yhe SSE Arena is a crucial ‘must win’ double hitter for Belfast if they are going to be successful in their attempt to lift the Elite League Trophy.

The Giants have this week to practice to erase the 5-1 defeat that knocked them out of the final of the Challenge Cup. So, Friday 17th then Saturday 18th February could be Belfast’s chance to restore their hopes of capturing a trophy that has eluded them for the past two years.

 

The Final Score in Fife was the Flyers 9-5 Belfast Giants and the Giants’ Man of the Match went to #25 Blair Riley.

 

Written by Wayne Hardman

 

Images via Martin Waterson and Press Eye

 

Images from

 

 

 

 Elite Ice Hockey League Standings 2016/17
After Games of 12/2/17                  
  GP Regulation OT/PS OT/PS Regulation PTS   Current  
    Wins Wins Losses Losses     Streak  
                   
Cardiff*

40

24

6

3

7

63

 

6 wins

 
Belfast*

41

23

5

4

9

60

 

1 loss

 
Sheffield*

40

23

3

3

11

55

 

1 win

 
Braehead

42

20

1

3

18

45

 

3 wins

 
Nottingham

38

16

3

6

13

44

 

1 loss

 
Fife

40

16

4

3

17

43

 

1 win

 
Manchester

40

15

1

5

19

37

 

1 loss

 
Coventry

42

10

5

3

24

33

 

3 losses

 
Dundee

40

9

4

5

22

31

 

1 win

 
Edinburgh

39

9

4

1

25

27

 

3 losses

 

 

* Qualified for Play-Offs (top 8 qualify)

 

 Gardiner Conference Standings 2016-2017
After games of 12/2/17              
  GP Regulation OT/PS OT/PS Regulation PTS   Current  
    Wins Wins Losses Losses     Streak  
                   
Braehead

25

18

0

1

6

37

 

2 wins

 
Manchester

27

11

1

3

12

27

 

1 loss

 
Fife

24

10

1

3

10

25

 

3 losses

 
Dundee

22

7

3

2

10

22

 

1 win

 
Edinburgh

24

6

4

0

14

20

 

1 loss

 

 

 

 Erhardt Conference Standings 2016-2017
After games of 12/2/17              
  GP Regulation OT/PS OT/PS Regulation PTS   Current  
    Wins Wins Losses Losses     Streak  
                   
Cardiff

24

13

3

3

5

35

 

4 wins

 
Belfast

23

11

4

2

6

32

 

4 wins

 
Sheffield

25

12

1

2

10

28

 

1 loss

 
Nottingham

24

9

2

4

9

26

 

1 loss

 
Coventry

26

2

4

3

17

15

 

6 losses

 

 

 

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Devils End Giants Challenge Cup Dreams

The Devils end the Giants’ Challenge Cup Dream

 Approaching the second leg of the Challenge Cup semi-final, Belfast were leading by a goal after a hard fought come from behind victory in Cardiff. Things looked positive for the return match in the SSE Arena.

Fortunate news for the Giants, regarding the arriving Devils’ team, was that their top playmaker Andrew Hotman was suspended. Belfast’s Player Coach, Derrick Walser decided to play despite nagging back pains, while Jackson Whistle took to the nets. These were encouraging signs for the home fans.

However success was not to be. The Belfast Giants were given a lesson in how to win hockey games in the semi-final stage of the Challenge Cup with a 5-1 thumping and an overall score of a 9-6 aggregate loss.  The Devils’ win snapped an impressive seven game winning streak from the Giants.

 

chris_higgins_belfast

 

Chris Higgins (68)

The final outcome was almost predictable after Chris Higgins, Belfast’s leading scorer drove the Cardiff’s nets early on in the game and looked certain to open the Giants’ scoring. Yet Cardiff’s Ben Bowns made a world class save to blank his opportunity. It gave an early indication upon how things were likely to pan-out.

Ben Bowns Cardiff Devils Puck Stopper

 Ben Bowns (33) Cardiff’s Man of the Match

Recently the Giants have made a habit of coming from behind to steal games from their opponents. However Wednesday night’s game was not to be an encore.

The Devils took an early lead in this semi-final 2nd leg after Mark Richardson’s shot was deflected into the Giants’ net by Patrick Borderleau. That Borderleau goal saw the semi-final tied on aggregate and gave the Devils hope.

Belfast Giants v Cardiff Devils - Challenge Cup Semi-Final 2nd leg

Adam Keefe (47) drops the gloves for his team

Belfast Captain Adam Keefe dropped the gloves with Borderleau after the Devils’ goal scorer’s hit from behind into the boards on Jonathan Boxill. He was awarded a ‘Game Misconduct’ by Referee Smith due to the nature of the hit.

 With only ten seconds remaining in the opening period, Mark Louis scored unassisted to extend his side’s lead on the night and give the Devils a 6-5 advantage on aggregate.

 Mark Louis grabbed his second of the game midway through the second period when he stick handled his way through the Giants’ zone neatly finishing the effort by depositing the puck into the Giants’ net.

Little over three minutes later and it was 4-0 on the night when Chris Jones hammered the puck into the roof of the Belfast net, assisted by Joey Haddad, again in the second period, to add more despair to the Giants’ faithful.

Elite Ice Hockey League - Belfast Giants v Cardiff Devils

Jackson Whistle (1) leaves the ice

 Belfast’s coach decided to replace Jackson Whistle in the Giants’ net by slotting Stephen Murphy into his place.

Stephen Murphy (31)nagainst the Clan

Steven Murphy (31) replaces Whistle in nets

Belfast Giants v Cardiff Devils - Challenge Cup Semi-Final 2nd legChris Higgins (68) beats Bown (33) in Cardiff’s nets

That seemed to spark the Giants as Chris Higgins got Belfast on the score sheet late in the second period with a fine finish after receiving Derrick Walser’s pass. Higgins’ goal left the Giants trailing by two goals on aggregate.

With the Giants piling on the pressure during the final period, the Devils struck a decisive blow when Joey Martin scored on a breakaway late in the third period. Martin’s goal gave the Welsh side a three goal lead in the tie and rounded off an impressive road win for the Devils.

The Giants’ fans had had enough and started streaming out of the SSE Arena – the game was certainly not what they had been expecting. It had been obvious to see that the Devils had been pressing the Giants in their zone, not letting Belfast develop their forward motion or get momentum on the attack.

There was a way to have combated that tactic, however they stuck to their game plan despite the fact that digging the way they were could only make the hole deeper. In the end the game was effectively lost after Bown’s made that early save on Higgins – as near perfect a save as this writer has seen in a long time.

The Giants return to league action on Friday 10th February against the Dundee Stars, face-off at 7.00 PM in Belfast’s SSE Arena.

Wednesday’s final score was Belfast Giants (6) 1-5 (9) Cardiff Devils and the Giants’ Man of the Match was awarded to #68 Chris Higgins.

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Wayne going to the rugby ball April 08Written by Wayne Hardman

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Giants are on a roll now!

Forney Hat-Trick turns the Clan’s encounter into a Giant win

The Giants’ consistent, winning roll continues against teams in the top end of the Elite League standing. That winning streak includes the first leg victory against the Devils away in Cardiff and following soon the second leg of the semi-final of the Challenge Cup in Belfast this Wednesday. All to be savoured before a possible final encounter against Sheffield, or Nottingham.

How good is that after a rather inconsistent start to the season?

derrick-walser-43Derrick Walser Giants Player Coach 

Derrick Walser, with his own-pick Giants’ team under his command has a strong chance of picking up a trophy in this campaign.

For sure there is a new buzz around the SSE Arena. Interesting to note how much that improved players’ attitude recognises that you ‘reap what you sow’. The increased number of travelling Giants’ fans too is testimonial to this positive attitude.

The Giants’ players have a new benchmark too to aim for, coming from behind in games because they believe in themselves as a team. Recognition that they can achieve no matter how difficult the task may seem.

Take the Giants game in Scotland against the Clan this past weekend. Down by two goals in the first three and a half minutes played, did they throw in the towel? Not likely! They rolled up their sleeves and started the come back.

Looking back at that action, after trailing 2-0 before most of the fans had sat down this frantic cross-conference contest saw the Clan net twice from Mike Hammond, then Scott Pitt. This doubled Braehead’s lead in a whirlwind start to the contest.

Michael Forney (14) facing off against the ClanMichael Forney (14) on faceoff duty against the Clan 

The Giants responded almost immediately, with Michael Forney opening the scoring for the visitors thirty-eight seconds on from Braehead’s second goal assisted by Giants Chris Higgins and Derrick Walser.

Belfast Giants v Braehead Clan - exhibition gameMichael Forney (14) battles with The Clan for possession 

It was that man Forney who scored yet again when the Giants drew level at 2-2. Belfast’s forward achieved this (and his team’s second of the game) assisted by Chris Higgins.

garside-stars-450x235-1Mark Garside (7) celebrates his goal 

The first period’s scoring was completed with just thirty-three seconds left on the game clock in the opening period when Mark Garside scored assisted by Chris Higgins and Michael Forney making it 3-2 to the Giants.

However the Clan had not thrown in the towel. Scott Pitt netted to equalize for Braehead, assisted by Mike Hammond and Matt Beca.

James Desnarais battle for the puck in front of the Clan's net

James Desmarais (79) battles Clan defender for the puck

The Giants then took advantage of a powerplay opportunity when James Desmarais fired his side into a 4-3 lead, assisted by Steve Saviano and Alex Foster.

Alex Foster (23) in action against the Clan

Alex Foster (23) played his part in the Giants viv=ctory over the Clan

Once again, in the seesaw battle for victory Braehead drew level as their Mike Hammond scored his second of the game, assisted by Scott Pitt and Zach Sullivan.

Elite Ice Hockey League - Belfast Giants vs Coventry Blaze

Michael Forney (14) finds the back of the net again

With less than five minutes remaining, the Giants got their decisive go-ahead goal. Michael Forney completed his hat trick, assisted by Chris Higgins and Derrick Walser, to win the game for the Giants.

So the Final Score ended at Braehead Clan 4-5 Stena Line Belfast Giants with the Giants Man of the Match awarded to #14 Michael Forney.

Belfast returned to action on Sunday for their second Elite League clash of the weekend in Scotland. The Edinburgh Capitals were the opponents.

No game is an easy contest in the Elite League these days however the Giants made swift work of the Capitals winning 8-3 on to complete a four point weekend.

Giants Jonathan Boxill  (89) scored against Sheffield

Jonathan Boxill (89) loves to score

The Giants achieved an array of goals from players Boxill, Higgins, Saviano, Keefe, Nickerson and Desmarais as well as two from Shields. This gave the Giants their second win in as many nights. With those two wins, the Giants matched the Cardiff Devils’ weekend results to remain one point behind the Elite League leaders

Colin Shields started the goal fest assisted by James Desmarais. The Giants’ lead was short-lived though as Jaroslav Hertl equalized twenty-two seconds later for the Capitals, assisted by Taylor MacDougall and Karel Hromas.

Shields during his Giant days

Colin Shields (19 got the Giants rolling 

Colin Shields grabbed his and his team’s second goal of the game with two and a half minutes left in the opening period. He deflected Derrick Walser’s shot past Capitals’ netminder Fullerton while on the powerplay.

 In response Jared Staal brought the Edinburgh Capitals level when his shot deflected into the Giants’ net early in the second period, assisted by Richards Grigors.

 The Giants grabbed their third goal of the game at 26:48 when Jonathan Boxill fired home, assisted by Derrick Walser and Matt Towe. Once again, the Edinburgh Capitals equalized when Jared Staal’s shot deflected off Matt Tipoff and squeezed into the Belfast net.

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Chris Hoggins (68) finds the back of the Capitals net

Chris Higgins pulled the Giants ahead with a fine unassisted goal when he rounded the Capitals’ netminder. Steve Saviano then extended the visitors’ lead to 5-3 in the last minute of the second period with a fierce one-timer on the powerplay, assisted by Michael Quesnele and Colin Shields.

adam-keefe-47

Giants Captain Adam Keefe (47)

Giants’ Captain Adam Keefe made it 6-3 when his wrist shot ripped into the Capitals’ net early in the final period. Matt Nickerson gave the Giants a four-goal advantage over the hosts when his slap shot screamed past netminder Fullerton, assisted by Mark Garside.

Nickerson then turned from scorer to provider when his assist led to the Giants’ 8th and final goal of the game, scored by James Desmarais. So the Final Score ended Edinburgh Capitals 3-8 Stena Line Belfast Giants with the Giants’ Man of the Match awarded to Captain #47 Adam Keefe.

This week beginning 06 February sees the Giants’ return to Belfast for two home games. First up on Wednesday 08 February is the Challenge Cup Semi-Final 2nd leg against the Cardiff Devils with the Giants 5-4 ahead from the 1st leg. Face-off is 7.00 PM at the SSE Arena, Belfast.

 

Then on Friday 10 February an Elite League clash against the Dundee Stars rounds off another week for the hard working Stena Line Belfast Giants.

 

 

Written by Wayne Hardman

 

Photographs attached by Al Goold

 

After Games LEAGUE STANDINGS
Played GP REG OT/PS OT/PS REG PTS CURRENT
5/02/17 Wins Wins Losses Losses STREAK
 Cardiff 38 22 6 3 7 59  4 Wins
 Belfast 39 22 5 4 8 58  6 Wins
 Sheffield 37 21 3 3 10 51  2 Wins
 Nottingham 36 15 4 5 12 43  2 Losses
 Fife 37 15 3 4 15 40  1 Win
 Braehead 39 17 1 3 18 39  2 Losses
 Manchester 37 14 1 5 17 35  2 Losses
 Coventry 40 10 5 3 22 33  1 Loss
 Dundee 38 8 4 5 21 29  2 Losses
 Edinburgh 37 9 4 1 23 27  1 Loss
               
After Games GARDINER CONFERENCE
Played GP REG OT/PS OT/PS REG PTS CURRENT
04/02/17 Wins Wins Losses Losses STREAK
 Braehead 23 16 0 1 6 33  1 Loss
 Fife 23 10 1 3 9 25  2 Losses
 Manchester 24 10 1 3 10 25  2 Wins
 Edinburgh 23 6 4 0 13 20  2 Wins
 Dundee 21 6 3 2 10 20  1 Loss
               
After Games ERHARDT CONFERENCE 
Played GP REG OT/PS OT/PS REG PTS CURRENT
5/02/17 Wins Wins Losses Losses STREAK
 Belfast 23 11 4 2 6 32  4 Wins
 Cardiff 22 11 3 3 5 31  2 Wins
 Sheffield 24 12 1 2 9 28  1 Win
 Nottingham 22 8 2 4 8 24  1 Loss
 Coventry 25 2 4 3 16 15  5 Losses

 

 

 

 

 

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Giants gain the respect they deserve!

 

Giants Come Back To Take Lead Into Semi-Final Second Leg

 Whatever people thought of the Giants’ early season performance, their views must have changed by now. The team’s consistency level has risen considerably.

Going to Cardiff to ice in the Devils’ den was a challenging mission. However the Giants came away with an awesome result after being down two goals. The Belfast out-fit dug deep to come back with a great 5-4 win against the red hot Cardiff team in the first leg of the Challenge Cup Semi-Final.

Jackson Whistle (1) saves infront of battle groundJackson Whistle (1) in the heat of battle 

Jackson Whistle, starting in net for the Giants was the busier of the two netminders during the opening period as the Devils outshot the visitors 9-6.

Ben Bowns (33) Devils

 Ben Bown in the Devils net

Cardiff’s Layne Ulmer took advantage of a powerplay mid-way through the first period when he scored just pasted the midway point, assisted by Andrew Hotham and Joey Martin.

The Devils struck again when Gleason Fournier doubled the lead when he fired an unstoppable wrist shot high into the Giants’ net, assisted by Joey Haddad and Patrick Asselin.

GIANTS V FIFE MCOOPER4Colin Shields (19) 

The Giants showed character to respond almost immediately and cut the Devils’ lead in half. Colin Shields was the marksman on the powerplay, redirecting Derrick Walser’s pass into the net with just over two minutes left in the opening period.

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Chris  Higgins (68) scores

 The second period witnessed Guillaume Doucet restoring the Devils’  lead, assisted by Scott Hotham at 2-2. That was when the Giants’ real fight back kicked in with Chris Higgins scoring a fine individual goal to make the score 3-2.

 The see-saw battle reverted back to Cardiff when they made it a 4-2 game right at the end of the second period when Joey Martin scored on a breakaway with just one second left on the game clock to end the second period

James Desmarais (79) Colin Shields (19) and Derrick Walser (43)

Colin Shields (19) scores his second goal ofthe contest

The third period saw the reverse of the Giants’ fortune when Colin Shields scored his second of the game once again teaming up with Derrick Walser to bring the Giants back to within one goal of the Devils.

 Brandon Benedict

Brandon Benedict (26) always works hard

It took less than two minutes before the Giants were back on level terms when Brandon Benedict scored unassisted six and a half minutes into the third period.

Player Coach Derrick walser calls the tune to the Giants squad

Jim Vandermeer (9) with a group of Giants celebrated the winning goal

Drama was building throughout the final period with each team trying to find the winning pass or shot to settle the contest. The game clock was ticking away with less than a minute left in the contest when Jim Vandermeer fired the puck into the Devils’ net with a slap shot from the blue line. This was on the powerplay assisted by Chris Higgins and Michael Forney to close the game out in sensational style.

Mark Garside (7) battles along the boards

Mark Garside (7) had another good game

The final round of the two legged Challenge Cup Semi Final between the Giants and Devils will take place in Belfast on Wednesday 8th February, face-off at 700 PM at Belfast’s SSE Arena. The Giants secure a one-goal lead into next Wednesday’s second leg in Belfast.

So the final score was Cardiff Devils 4-5 Stena Line Belfast Giants with the Giants’ Man of the Match being #19 Colin Shields

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Written by Wayne Hardman

 

Photo: Helen Brabon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Giants are the real thing

The Giants are certainly contenders following the historic victory In Sheffield

 DerrickWalser

Player Coach Derrick Walser

Should there have been any doubts about ‘player-coaches’ performing the task, Derrick Walser must have quelled those doubts. In front of a huge crowd of Belfast fans Walser lead his squad to a 5-2 victory over Sheffield Steelers. It was the first of back-to-back league games in the Sheffield Arena last weekend.

Belfast dominated the Steelers in the opening period after taking a 4-0 lead enthusiastically cheered on, all game long, by a loud home fan base of supporters.

Jackson Whistle #2Jackson Whistle (1) icing for the Rockets 

Belfast rotates their goaltenders but it was Jackson Whistle who was called for net duty in Sheffield. It did not take long for Whistle to cheer the Giants’ opening score. It came from Chris Higgins who slammed a loose puck past Mustukovs in the Steelers’ net after just five and a half minutes of game time, assisted by Michael Forney and Jim Vandermeer.

Belfast Giants v Sheffield Steelers - Elite Ice Hockey League

 

Chris Higgins (68) opens the Giants scoring.

Ervins Mustukovs (35) is beaten again

Michael Quesnele (8) watches the puck beat Mustukovs in the Steeler net

Three minutes later and the Giants doubled their lead. This time it was Michael Quesnele who netted for the Giants, assisted by Blair Riley and Jim Vandermeer.

David Rutherford (91) celebrates scoring against the SteelersDavid Rutherford (91) celebrates scoring the Giants third goal 

If two was OK then why not three? The Giants led by that score after Chris Higgins found David Rutherford in an opportune space in front of the Steelers’ goal. He simply slammed the puck into the net.

David Rutherford (91)

David Rutherford (91) in the right place at the right time

Belfast were on fire netting a forth after David Rutherford scored his second of the game, assisted by Michael Forney and Blair Riley giving the Giants a 4-0 lead at the end of an impressive opening period.

Brandon Benedict (26) scores the Giants 5th goal

Brandon Benedict (26) beats Mustukovs cleanly for Belfast fifth goal

Brandon Benedict has not had that many scoring chances recently, however it was him that made it 5-0 after he finished off an impressive move midway through the second stanza, assisted by player coach Walser.

The Steelers had to regroup and regain some self-belief. They did this by scoring, pulling one back when Fretter redirected Roy’s shot past Whistle in the Giants’ net.

Into the final period and the Steelers had an opportunity to score their second of the game when they were awarded a penalty shot. However Jackson Whistle stood tall and Fretter missed.

However Luke Ferrara made amends when he netted a late consolation goal for the home side when he scored with thirty-six seconds remaining.

Giants fans in Sheffield

Giants fans in Sheffield saluted by the Team after the 5-2 victory 

Soon after, the final hooter sounded to round off a famous night for the Belfast Giants and their supporters. So Saturday’s final score was Sheffield Steelers 2-5 Stena Line Belfast Giants and the Giants’ Man of the Match was #91 David Rutherford

The burning question was, could the Giants do it again when they faced Sheffield again on Sunday? In short yes they could.

Belfast achieved a double whammy over their archrivals Sheffield with a 5-4 away win against the Steelers on Sunday. The win sees the Giants take four points from a possible four following Saturday’s 5-2 defeat of the Steelers and the Giants’ chase for the Elite League title continues.

Steve Saviano (13) smilingSteve Saviano (12) 

It took two goals from Giant Steve Saviano who scored in the last minutes of the game. This proved to be the crucial difference in an end-to-end clash in Sheffield Arena. Again, special mention must go to the large number of Giants’ fans who packed the away end in Sheffield. They too made the crucial difference albeit off-ice.

Stephen Murphy was a busy ma in the Giants goalStephen Murphy (31) back in the heat of the action 

Stephen Murphy started in net for the Giants and was called into immediate action as the Steelers set out to avenge Saturday’s home defeat, outshooting the visitors 13-10 in the opening period.

Sheffield took the lead just inside four minutes when Steelers’ Luke Ferrara scored his second goal of the weekend, assisted by Hared Hagos and Jonathan Phillips.

It only took another five minutes until the Steelers had doubled their lead. This time it was Mathieu Roy who scored, assisted by Markus Nilsson and Colton Fretter, as the hosts took control of this league game.

Belfast Giants v Sheffield Steelers - Elite Ice Hockey League

Colin Shields (19) get the Giants rolling

However the Giants showed their grit, and responded almost immediately as Colin Shields hammered the puck past Mustukovs midway through the opening period. Shields’ goal came on the powerplay thanks to an inch perfect pass from behind the net by Alex Foster.

Blair Riley (25) watches the uck fly by Mustekovs (33)Blair Riley (25) tips Vandermeer shot past Mustukovs 

If the first period belonged to Sheffield the second period turned the tables. Jim Vandermeer’s shot on goal deflected into the path of Blair Riley who slammed the puck into the roof of the Steelers’ net to tie the score 2-2.

Giants celebrate David Rutherford' s (91) goal

David Rutherford (91) nets again for the Giants

But wait, the Giants were not finished yet as they scored the ‘go-ahead’ goal on their second powerplay strike of the game. James Desmarais skated with the puck into the Sheffield zone and held off a few Steelers to dish the puck to the back post where David Rutherford was waiting to fire home.

In the third period Levi Nelson equalized for the Steelers when his cool backhanded finish found the net after the puck had rebounded off one of the Giants’ skates.

Stephen-Murphy

Stephen-Murphy

Belfast then got into penalty difficulties and the team were called into penalty killing duty. Stephen Murphy rose to the occasion in the Giants’ net as the team killed off the Steelers’ power plays.

Steve Saviano(12) watches puck into the Steelers netSteve Savinao (12) watch puck slide by Mustukovs 

The Giants then worked their way into the lead once again when Steve Saviano pounced on a loose puck in the Steelers’ zone to fire home the break through score assisted by James Desmarais and Colin Shields.

Stena Line Belfast Giants V Fife Flyers in the Elite Ice Hockey LeagueSteve Saviano (12) celebrates a goal

Ninety four seconds later and the Belfast side had extended their lead to 5-3. It was Steve Saviano once again who netted for Belfast when James Desmarais unselfishly off-loaded the puck for the Giants’ score.

 The home side piled on the pressure against the Giants in a late attempt to get back into the game. With fifty-seven seconds to go, they were back to within one goal. Yarod Hagos bundled the puck into the Giants’ net with minder Mustukovs pulled for the extra attacker.

 The Steelers’ fourth goal set up a frantic finale, however the Giants weathered the storm in order to claim a 5-4 win and a second important win in as many nights in Sheffield.

The Giants will now take a brief break from league action when they face the Cardiff Devils on Wednesday 1st February in the first leg of the Challenge Cup Semi-Final. Face-off is on Wednesday in Wales at 7:30 PM.

Next weekend the Giants travel to Scotland for back-to-back away games against the Braehead Clan on Saturday and against the Edinburgh Capitals on Sunday.

So the final score was Sheffield Steelers 4-5 Stena Line Belfast Giants and the Giants’ Man of the Match was #12 Steve Saviano.

Paul Thompson reading the riot actSheffield’s Head Coach Paul Thompson 

In post game comments Sheffield’s Head Coach Paul Thompson was complimentary about the Giants. He said that they were a great team, that the Steelers had been ‘asleep’ in the opening period in the 2-5 loss to the visiting Belfast squad.

Individual errors had given the opening period to the Giants but he was proud of his team’s commitment to playing for the full sixty minutes. He wanted the opening game in the back-to-back contests’ loss to sting the memories of the Steeler’s players mind and to come back to Sunday’s game to reverse the result.

Thompson got that desired effort in the opening period in Sunday’s encounter but then it fell apart. He stated that the Giants were the better team. Sheffield had coughed up ten goals – seven of which Thompson thought gifted Belfast the win.

Coach Paul Thompson’s blunt words on Steeler’s TV summed up a difficult weekend for the Steelers, “We were not good enough. Simple as that”. Our penalty kill was poor at best and the powerplay just didn’t work however the Giants’ did. We can’t run away and hide but face the facts – like practice what we do to win games, and it’s as simple as that”.

Belfast Giant commentator Wayne Hardman at work Written by Wayne Hardman

 Photographs by Dean Woolley

 Elite Ice Hockey League Standings 2016/17
After Games of 29/1/17                  
  GP Regulation OT/PS OT/PS Regulation PTS   Current  
    Wins Wins Losses Losses     Streak  
                   
Cardiff

36

21

5

3

7

55

 

2 wins

 
Belfast

37

20

5

4

8

54

 

4 wins

 
Sheffield

35

19

3

3

10

47

 

2 losses

 
Nottingham

34

15

3

4

12

40

 

1 win

 
Braehead

38

17

1

3

17

39

 

1 loss

 
Fife

35

15

3

2

15

38

 

2 losses

 
Manchester

35

14

1

4

16

34

 

2 wins

 
Coventry

38

10

4

3

21

31

 

1 loss

 
Dundee

36

8

4

4

20

28

 

1 win

 
Edinburgh

34

9

2

1

22

23

 

2 losses

 

 

 

 Gardiner Conference Standings 2016-2017
After games of 29/1/17              
  GP Regulation OT/PS OT/PS Regulation PTS   Current  
    Wins Wins Losses Losses     Streak  
                   
Braehead

23

16

0

1

6

33

 

1 loss

 
Manchester

24

10

1

3

10

25

 

2 wins

 
Fife

22

10

1

2

9

24

 

1 loss

 
Dundee

20

6

2

2

9

19

 

1 win

 
Edinburgh

21

6

2

0

13

16

 

1 loss

 

 

 

 Erhardt Conference Standings 2016-2017
After games of 29/1/17              
  GP Regulation OT/PS OT/PS Regulation PTS   Current  
    Wins Wins Losses Losses     Streak  
                   
Belfast

23

11

4

2

6

32

 

4 wins

 
Cardiff

21

11

2

3

5

29

 

1 win

 
Sheffield

23

11

1

2

9

26

 

2 losses

 
Nottingham

21

8

2

3

8

23

 

1 win

 
Coventry

24

2

4

3

15

15

 

4 losses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Giants make real ground on first place

The Nottingham Panthers are both proud and honoured to be the first UK squad to lift the Continental Cup. With last Friday’s game in mind, they would definitely be a team coming to Belfast with an extra spring in their step.

On the other hand the Giants were placed above the Panthers in the league standings. Currently building a consistent challenge to track down runaway leaders Cardiff Devils, the Giants are clawing back point after point and narrowing the gap.

The great run of results, which they achieved over the festive period, must continue to have any chance of lifting a trophy this season after two years without a cup of any kind.

James Desmarais (79) Colin Shields (19) and Derrick Walser (43)James Desmarais (79) netted five goals over the weekend which certainly helped the Giants

Well the Belfast Giants defeated the Nottingham Panthers 5-4 on Friday night’s at the SSE Arena. Thanks was due to a hat trick from James Desmarais in a ‘man of the match’ display by the forward.

That win saw the Giants move to within one point of the first placed Devils with the Belfast side having played two games more than the Welsh side.

whistle-man-of-the-match-in-goal Jackson Whistle (1) with Derrick Walser (43) defending the Giants goal

Jackson Whistle got the nod in the Belfast net, and Jeff Mason was the Giants’ healthy scratch for Friday’s massive league clash.

unnamed-2-1

Giants players celebrate with Jim Vandermeer (9) on scoring early against the Panthers

You could not have asked for a better start when Belfast’s Jim Vandermeer shot a wicked slap shot from the blue line, bulging the Panthers’ net with less than two minutes played.

Giants celebrate David Rutherford' s (91) goalDavid Rutherford (91) & Brandon Bendict (26) join together happy with yet another goal 

Next up was David Rutherford netting after some great inter play from Ryan Martinelli and Alex Foster. Two up and the Giants were on fire… but wait…

Giants James Desmarais (79) celebrates his scoreJames Desmarais (79) nets the Giants third goal against the Panther 

An almost unbelievable thirty-nine seconds later James Desmarais finished off a fast passing move to make it 3-0 assisted by Steve Saviano and Colin Shields.

Adam Keefe (47) and Jeff Brown (16) duke it outAdam Keefe (47) and Jeff Brown (16) duke it out at centre ice 

The Belfast fans were in delirious mood – the Panthers wondering what just hit them. Just to throw something else into the mix, Adam Keefe dropped the gloves with the Panthers’ Jeff Brown. This woke up the visitors and brought further delight to the Belfast faithful.

Adam Keefe (47) & Jeff Brown (16) continue their battle

Adam Keefe (47) and Jeff Brown (16) heavily at the task in hand with shirts half off

That was all in the opening period so what lay ahead for the fans to enjoy in the next two periods? The middle period was a display of goaltending excellence with Jackson Whistle and Jindrich Pacl in the Nottingham goal pulling off save after save to keep the score at 3-0 to the home side.

Jackson Whistle #2Jacksom Whistle (1) has come on big time since icing for the Rockets

Pacl was introduced to the game following the Giants’ third goal of the game replacing Miika Wilkman.                                      .

 Finally the Panthers started to find their rhythm as Jeff Brown netted his twelfth goal of the season opening the Panthers scoring four minutes into the third period to reduce the deficit to two goals.

Giants James Desmaraus (79)

Close-uo on James Desmarais (79) Giants goal scoring heroagainst the Panthers

James Desmarais netted his second of the night, and the Giants’ fourth with a powerplay goal to extend the home side’s lead to 4-1. The game was turning into a goal rush as big, strong power forward Chris Lawrence scored for the Panthers as they turned up the heat on the Giants.

James Desmarais (79) scores the winnerJames Desmarais (79) knows how to score by now after his Hat-trick against the Panthers 

It was James Desmarais completing his hat-trick only fifteen seconds later, when his pass was deflected into the back of the Panthers’ net that onlookers began to wonder just what the outcome could be.

With both goalies having to pick the puck out of the back of their net it then became Whistle’s turn to retrieve Robert Farmer’s shot from his goal thus making the finished result some what uncertain.

Jason Williams and Brad Moran assisted Nottingham’s third goal by Farmer. The tension in the game brought both fans to the edges of their seats as things grew more dramatic. With less than two minutes left on the game clock the Panthers drew to within one goal when Matt Carter scored, assisted by Dan Spang.

 

corey bench 2

 

Cory Neilson Panthers Head Coach

Cory Neilson, the Panthers coach pulled Paci from the Nottingham goal to gain the extra out skater.

The Giants battled bravely to keep the Panthers from tying the score for the remaining seconds of the game to earn a well deserved Friday night home win to move up one point behind the first placed Cardiff Devils.

So the final score was the Stena Line Belfast Giants 5 and the Nottingham Panthers 4 – the Giants’ Man of the Match was indeed #79 James Desmarais.

Next up on Saturday night were the Giants versus the Dundee Stars with Belfast finding goals from everywhere on the squad. The pressure of a second place ranking did not hinder the Giants in their quest to track down league leaders Cardiff after a convincing 6-0 thrashing of the Stars in the SSE Arena.

Michael Forney (14) has the puck between his skates

Michael Forney (14) against Panthers with the puck between his skates

Michael Forney (14) passing the puck

This time Michael Forney (24) knows where the puck is.

Michael Forney opened the scoring mid way through the first period as the Giants looked to exert control on the game early. Next up was Steve Saviano who increased the Giants’ score line to 2-0 with just two minutes left in the opening period.

Steve Saviano ( 12) scores for Belfast

 Steve Saviano (12) scoresagainst the Stars with Fallow (29) looking the other way

The second period continued the Giants’ dominance going three up just over a minute in to the period through James Desmarais. Their continued pressure saw the score line raise to 5-0 before the second intermission, with Chris Higgins and Jonathan Boxill finding the back of the net.

Higgins (68) Vandermeer (9) Forney (14) Quesnele (80mcelabrate Giants score

Chris Higgins (68) gets on the score sheet as well

Jonatha Boxill (89) on the puckJonathan Boxill (89) finds the back of the net for a rare goal as well

James Desmarais completed the win with a goal late in the third period, while goaltender Stephen Murphy finished the game with seventeen saves to record his third Elite League shut out of the season.

The Giants return to action this coming Saturday and Sunday with back-to-back away games against the Sheffield Steelers. The next Giants’ home game is on Wednesday 8th February against the Cardiff Devils in the 2nd Leg of the Challenge Cup Semi-Final. Then, Friday 10th February against the Dundee Stars in the Elite League – both games face-off at 7.00 PM.

 

So the final score was the Stena Line Belfast Giants 6 and the Dundee Stars 0 – the Giants’ Man of the Match was #14 Michael Forney.

The Giants are on fire breathing heavily on the Cardiff Devils’ tail, both battling for the Elite League title and the final round of the Challenge Cup. Remember though, the Sheffield Steelers also  have aspirations for both titles as well.

  TEAM GP RW PTS

 

1 CARDIFF 34 19 51
2 BELFAST 35 18 50
3 SHEFFIELD 33 19 47
4 FIFE 33 15 38
5 NOTTINGHAM 32 14 38
6 BRAEHEAD 36 16 36
7 MANCHESTER 33 12 30
8 COVENTRY 36 9 29
9 DUNDEE 34 8 26
10 EDINBURGH 32 9 23

 

Hey Harrison Ford's fathers commentating

Written by Wayne Hardman

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