Fifth goal is Belfast Giants 'cushion' for cup final
Paul Adey believes that Darryl Lloyd's goal in the Belfast Giants Challenge Cup final first leg win over the Nottingham Panthers could be the one that gives his team the trophy.
Lloyd sealed a 5-2 victory for the Giants in the first meeting on Friday night and the Panthers now have a difficult task in front of them in tomorrow evening's return meeting if they are to win the cup for a fifth successive season.
Trying to overturn a three-goal deficit is hard enough, but they will have to do it against a Giants team that hasn't lost a meaningful match since a 8-3 defeat in Nottingham way back in early December – some 35 games ago.
The lead could well have been even bigger, but with his team in top form, Adey isn't being greedy
"I would have been happy with a two-goal lead going into Nottingham. I think it would have given us a bit of a cushion – a third goal is a bonus really," said Adey.
"In a final, anytime you have more than a two-goal lead you've got to consider it a bonus.
"We had to be careful in the third period. We had that 5-2 lead and we were pressuring them and they can catch us out with a quick one. We couldn't just throw everything at them to get that sixth goal, but we came out of it pretty good."
Even on Saturday night the Giants beat the Panthers 5-3 in the final league game of the season, with Lloyd, Kevin Saurette, Jeffrey Szwez, Jeff Mason and Chris Higgins getting the goals.
Nottingham had led 2-1 at the end of the first period in that game, but it is the fighting spirit, never-say-die attitude and the hunger to win every game – despite having clinched the league title over a month ago – that fills Adey with confidence that the second leg of a trophy treble can be completed comfortably.
"The guys are going to play the way we've played all year and we'll go to Nottingham and play our game – there is no question about that," said Adey.
"We played really well there on the weekend when we clinched the league, winning 3-1 in both games.
"They were two great results, so we know we can go in there and play a good game, that's not a worry for us in terms of what we can do there. We're going to go in there with a good lead, but we'll be going with the attitude of trying to win a game."
Last night's action confirmed that the Giants will face the Hull Stingrays in next weekend's two-legged play-off quarter-final. The Giants will be at home in the second leg on Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Belfast Giants' success is inspiring a new generation of young ice hockey talent.
The Junior Belfast Giants, who train at Dundonald International Ice Rink, have several promising young players and a chosen few have been selected to play for Scotland at this year's Junior Inter-conference Tournament at Hull from May 2-5.
Almost 400 top players from across the regions in the under-11 to under-17 age groups will converge on the city for a weekend of non-stop ice hockey in Britain's biggest junior tournament.
The Great Britain under-18 selectors will be looking to spot stars of the future.
The Junior Belfast Giants Club, under the auspices of head-coach and ex-Belfast Giants player Rob Stewart, have had a full complement of teams across every age range in the Scottish Ice Hockey League over the past two seasons. Following trials at Dumfries, five players from this side of the Irish Sea received their acceptance letters together with a letter of congratulations from the Hull tournament director, Geoff Hemmerman.
The youngest member of the club to be selected is nine-year-old Strandtown Primary School pupil Carter Hamill from Dundonald. His twin, Cameron, also attended the trials and is now on the reserve squad.
The other four players making the trip are Cavehill Primary School pupil Kell Beattie (10), Josh Hodgkinson (12) of Grosvenor Grammar School, Jamie Scott (16) who attends Priory College, Holywood and Regent House pupil, Stephen Eccles (17).