Belfast Giants fire warning as they march into semis
Belfast Giants 6 - Manchester Storm 2
The Belfast Giants dished out a 6-2 hammering to Manchester Storm as they strolled into the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup on an 11-4 aggregate scoreline.
Already with one foot in the last-four before last night's second leg, the Giants are now expected to face Elite League title rivals Cardiff Devils, who have a 3-0 first-leg lead over the Dundee Stars in their quarter-final tie.
Giants player-coach Derrick Walser rested himself for the game and he will have been pleased with what he saw from behind the bench.
Craig Peacock put the Giants into the lead at 5:44 after some good work behind the net by David Rutherford and although Paul Phillips levelled short-handed at 12:39, there was never likely to be any dramatic ending to this tale.
The Giants made sure of that when they took full control in the second period, scoring three goals in the space of 10 minutes.
Mitch Ganzak ripped a shot into the roof of the net at 28:31 after skating through the Storm defence.
Ganzak was in the penalty box, along with Rutherford and Manchester's Patrik Valcak, when Vinny Scarsella made it 2-2 on the night at 30:46.
That was as good as it got for Manchester as the Giants put their foot on the gas to win the game comfortably.
Rutherford swept home a loose puck in front of the Manchester net to put the Giants 3-2 up at 37:42 and just over a minute later, Colin Shields netted the fourth on an odd-man rush.
The Giants forced a breakaway from which they scored the fifth a couple of minutes into the third period.
Kris Beech provided the finish after James Desmarais set up the chance.
With the game - and the tie - in the bag, Walser took the opportunity to give goaltender Stephen Murphy the rest of the night off, putting Andrew Dickson in for the last 13 minutes.
A nasty coming together between Rutherford and Manchester's Devin Didiomete saw the Giants forward ejected for head-butting.
Without him, Mike Forney scored the Giants' sixth short-handed with 10 minutes to go.