Belfast Telegraph

Late strike leaves Giants' Cup clash on a knife-edge

By Stuart McKinley

Chris Higgins inflicted more pain on Manchester Storm by preventing them from coming to Belfast for next week's Challenge Cup quarter-final second-leg tie with a lead. Just three days after being thrown out of an Elite League game in Manchester after a clash with Adam Harding, Higgins scored the third-period equaliser to leave the contest delicately poised at 3-3 going into next Tuesday's return.

Higgins was given the all-clear to play by the Elite League's Department of Player Safety when the penalty for his spearing was downgraded, but Storm goaltender Mike Clemente was banned after hitting Mike Quesnele in the face with his blocker in the same game.

The Giants had to fight back twice after going 1-0 and 3-1 down, but the tie will now be decided over 60 minutes in Belfast.

Storm had the best chance of the first period, but the game remained deadlocked at the end of the opening 20 minutes.

Just a minute and a half after the first break, Matt Bissonnette set up Taylor Dickin. His shot didn't find the net, but Storm captain Trevor Johnston pounced to fire home.

The Giants' response was swift, with the equalising goal coming just two minutes later.Player-coach Derrick Walser and Blair Riley created the chance and Jeff Mason levelled.

Storm were looking strong and grabbed the initiative with two goals in quick succession.

Johnson was involved again as the home side restored their lead at 26:04. He linked with Darian Dziurznski with Mario Valery-Trabucco finishing it off.

The Giants lost Walser and Quesnele to penalty calls just over a minute apart, putting Storm on a five-on-three powerplay for 50 seconds, and it was just as Walser stepped back in that they scored their third goal.

When Valery-Trabucco's shot came off the backboards, Bissonnette was quickest to the rebound to score at 28:43.

It took the Giants until three minutes before the end of the second period to cut Storm's lead, but it was worth the wait. Colin Shields passed to James Desmarais, he skated through and put the chance on a plate for Steve Saviano to finish.

The goal that tied things up came at 48:31, with Matt Nickerson the main creator. Riley tried to pounce on the chance, but Higgins got the final touch.

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