Belfast Telegraph

Four-goal blitz in first period sees off Belfast Giants

By Stuart McKinley

The Belfast Giants have held onto top spot in the Elite League table, despite slumping to a 5-1 defeat in Coventry.

Having hit the front on Friday night following a convincing 4-1 success against Braehead Clan, coach Steve Thornton was hoping to build on the lead at the top of the standings, but instead suffered a setback

After beating the Blaze 7-2 on Tuesday evening the Giants made their second trip of the week to the SkyDome in confident mood and they got a dream start when Kevin Phillips scored after just 61 seconds.

But Coventry hit back with four goals before the end of the first period and as the Giants ran into penalty trouble they were unable to find a way back into the game, with Blaze scoring again late on to complete the rout.

Missing the injured Mike Kompon and Mark McCutcheon and with new signing Kevin Westgarth not due in Belfast until this week, Giants coach Steve Thornton had to shuffle his lines.

That didn't seem to have an adverse affect on the team though as Robby Sandrock's pass sent Ray Sawada into the Coventry zone and he set up Kevin Phillips, who was in space at the back post, to score his first goal of the season with just over a minute played.

If the Giants thought that would rattle Coventry they were very much mistaken as it took them only 68 seconds to level the scores.

Blaze were, however, the beneficiaries of a massive slice of luck as Derek Lee sent a pass to Ben Arnt, he tried to send the puck into the middle, but instead it struck Giants defenceman Jeff Mason on the back and ended up in the net.

That piece of good fortune, plus Darryl Lloyd's accidental high sticking offence, gave Coventry a lift and they doubled their lead on a powerplay at 5:59.

Jereme Tendler set up Ryan O'Marra and he fired his shot beyond Stephen Murphy.

Arnt scored again as Coventry stretched their advantage at 12:55, but this time he had to earn his goal.

Their recent signing Justin DaCosta slipped the puck through to Arnt and he made no mistake when one-on-one with Murphy.

There was still more to come before the end of a breathless first period, when Rory Rawlyk scored on a powerplay at 17:27, while Craig Peacock was in the penalty box, to make it 4-1 to Coventry.

Giants captain Adam Keefe thought that he had pulled one back early in the second period, but the referee had blown his whistle before the puck hit the net.

Both teams had three powerplay opportunities each in the second period, but couldn't take advantage of them.

Murphy made a great stop to keep Coventry at bay early in the third period.

Blaze then struck their fifth goal on their first powerplay of the final period. Jeff Mason was punished for hooking and Lee piled on the agony.

The Giants had three further powerplays in the period but the fact that they had to kill two other penalties with a short bench worked against them when the opportunity of having a numerical advantage arose, despite dominating the shot count (15-10) in the third period.

Thornton will now prepare his team for a home-and-away double-header against the Cardiff Devils this weekend, when Westgarth will be in the line up for his debut.

Belfast Telegraph

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