Giants keep cool to snuff out Blaze
Belfast Giants 3-1 Coventry Blaze
Patience paid off for the Belfast Giants last night as they moved back into the top four in the Elite League table.
After having to wait almost 50 minutes for the first goal to arrive, the Giants then scored twice, five minutes apart, before a thrilling grandstand finish in their 3-1 victory over Coventry Blaze.
And now they have to try to do it all over again against the same opposition at the Odyssey Arena this evening.
The first goal arrived through Cody Brookwell with just over 10 minutes to go and that sparked the game into life, with four more goals scored - although one was disallowed - in what remained of the game.
It was a surprise that the game went goalless for so long as the Giants made Coventry goaltender Brian Stewart work hard right from the off. He saved an effort from Craig Peacock early on and was then alert to stop a goal after Evan Cheverie's shot deflected off a defenceman's skate.
Coventry then killed a couple of penalties before they too came up against an in-form goaltender, with Carsen Chubak making a fine save for the Giants to keep the scoreline blank at the end of the first period.
Jeff Mason and Ray Sawada then saw the best of Stewart as he made two saves in quick succession and Chubak was called into action again when Rory Rawlyk tried his luck on a powerplay.
Coventry had offered little in the second period, registering only three shots to the Giants' 12, but they were still level thanks to Stewart keeping out another fine effort from Kevin Westgarth.
Stewart's resistance was finally broken just six seconds before the midway point of the third period.
Having seen his forward team-mates fail to find the net, Brookwell made his way forward and got the last touch to put the puck into the net after Peacock had made the chance.
Suddenly the home fans in the 4,347 strong crowd were energised and this fed through to the team, with Darryl Lloyd doubling the advantage with a powerplay goal at 54:59
Coventry weren't prepared to give up at that stage and when the Giants lost Adam Keefe to a tripping penalty - giving Blaze a five-on-three powerplay as David Phillips was already in the box - they saw their chance.
And they took it when Rawlyk and Ryan O'Marra created the opportunity and defenceman Justin DaCosta produced the finish for his first goal of the season.
Seeing an opportunity to possibly take the game into overtime - with Keefe still in the box - Coventry pulled Stewart in favour of the extra skater and went for broke.
They failed to put a meaningful shot on Chubak's goal though and when Phillips picked up the puck, he skated to centre ice before aiming a shot at the empty net to score the Giants' third and make the points secure.
After a pulsating nine minutes of high drama there was still time for more.
Despite Coventry now needing two goals to take the game into overtime, Stewart was pulled for a second time and again the move backfired.
This time it was Lloyd who found the net, but the goal celebrations were cut short when referee Stefan Hogarth quickly ruled it out.
The final hooter sounded just seconds later to bring an end to the thrilling climax to what had previously been a tense and tight battle.
The Giants have closed the gap on league leaders Braehead Clan to six points and have now played their game in hand, but with two matches against the Glasgow outfit to come next weekend and seven matches in total in a two-week period, things could change a lot between now and the first weekend of the New Year.