Giants' winning streak over as rivals storm to triumph
Belfast Giants 1 Manchester Storm 2
Manchester Storm ended the Belfast Giants' eight-game Elite League winning streak with a 2-1 victory at the SSE Arena last night. The result leaves the Giants six points adrift of leaders Cardiff Devils, although they do have a game in hand.
Two goals in as many minutes on either side of the final intermission, after the Giants had gone in front through James Desmarais, ended the best run of wins under player/coach Derrick Walser in his 18 months in charge.
The Giants recalled netminder Jackson Whistle, who replaced veteran Stephen Murphy, as Walser decided to continue his rotation policy while team captain Adam Keefe was rested for the second successive match.
After a cagey start to the game, Manchester tried to seize the initiative on the power-play after Desmarais had been called for slashing in the seventh minute.
Whistle denied Omar Pacha and Mark Heatley in quick succession and then pulled off a point-blank stop from Cody Cartier when the Giants were short-handed, with top scorer Blair Riley going close at the other end.
Then it was the Giants' turn to have the man advantage, and it was briefly five-on-three after Mario Trabucco was binned for interference and Heatley for slashing.
Riley had a shot saved by Storm netminder Mike Clemente in the 13th minute but the Giants had their numerical advantage halved when Chris Higgins was called for hooking, leaving the hosts briefly on the penalty-kill.
The Giants killed two more penalties in the first few minutes of the second session after Desmarais and Higgins were binned for holding and hooking respectively, but not without more heroics from their goalie.
Whistle denied Adam Harding and Jack Prince with two outstanding stops close to the crease but, having weathered a storm, the Giants took the lead against the run of play on 30:26.
Colin Shields' pass found Desmarais, who feigned a pass and then sent the puck low into the corner of the net to break the deadlock.
Buoyed by getting the opening goal, the Giants enjoyed their best spell with Shields, Walser and Mike Quesnele all going close.
But it was Riley who had the best chance when Storm goalie Clemente spilled his initial shot but he was unable to convert the rebound.
With four minutes of the second period remaining, the Giants had a power-play when Connor Varley was penalised for holding but they were unable to capitalise.
Manchester then got the goal their play deserved 45 seconds before the second intermission when Taylor Dickin finally beat Whistle from close range after the goalie had stopped a long-range effort from Trevor Johnson.
In the first minute of the final period, the Storm struck again when great work behind the net by Matt Bissonnette left Cartier with a simple chance and he made no mistake.
The Giants had three power-plays in the remainder of the game but were unable to find a way past visiting goalie Clemente, who denied Walser, Riley, Jim Vandermeer and Steve Saviano on two occasions in a frantic finish.