Belfast Giants make it a Cardiff hat-trick
Cardiff Devils 2 Belfast Giants 4: The Belfast Giants showed the many facets to their game last night as they claimed a 4-2 win over the Cardiff Devils.
At times they had to display fighting qualities, with Adam Keefe and Brad Voth having more than one go at each other.
In the end it was skill and goalscoring prowess that counted and the Giants had more than their Welsh rivals.
It’s the third time this season that the Giants have gone to Cardiff and come away with full points.
And with the Welsh capital regarded as the toughest away venue in the league it’s no surprise that coach Doug Christiansen was overjoyed.
“It’s the first time in Giants history that the team has gone to Cardiff and won three times in one season and to have done that is a massive accomplishment,” he said.
“There have been some great Belfast Giants teams in the past, but this team has stepped up and played very well this weekend.
“It’s been a very good weekend, beating Hull as well to take all four points and a sweep in Cardiff is very satisfying.”
Cardiff tried to put down an early marker when renowned tough guy Voth renewed his battle with Giants’ Keefe.
There was little in the fight and it sparked later clashes between Giants captain Jeremy Rebek and Cardiff’s Scott Matzka before Brock McBride and Max Birbraer took a swing at each other.
The key moment of the first period, however, came with just 55 seconds to go as Jeff Mason struck the opening goal to put the Giants in front.
The visitors then flew out of the blocks at the start of the second period.
Aaron Clarke was one of the players that Christiansen had pinpointed as someone who was capable of stepping up in the season-long absence of leading goalscorer Benoit Doucet.
And step up he did as it was Clarke who doubled the lead a minute-and-a-half after the re-start, when he was set up by Keefe.
Just three minutes of the period had gone when a slick Giants move brought about the third goal.
Keefe was involved again, this time linking the play between Darryl Lloyd and Rebek to allow the captain to finish for his fifth goal of an injury-interrupted season.
Keefe and Voth had another bite at each other — the Cardiff man possibly looking for another fight that might change the momentum of a game that was fast slipping away from his team.
It was another 10 minutes, however, before the Devils finally got onto the scoresheet.
Nick Kuiper was sitting out a tripping penalty when Matzka and Voth combined to set up Phil Hill to finish with four minutes of the second period to go.
Then it was all to play for when Cardiff notched a second four minutes into the third period.
Jeff Pierce struck his 17th goal of a highly productive season so far after Birbraer’s pass.
Voth had spent four spells in the penalty box and that became five after he and Rebek took a slash at each other before both were hit with penalties.
The teams were back to full strength by the time Kuiper made sure of the win.
The defenceman isn’t known for his goalscoring and he netted for the first time this season to make it 4-2 with just over eight minutes to go.
Cardiff rained in the shots at Stephen Murphy in the closing stages and even ended up with a six-on-three advantage as Keefe and Jon Pelle sat in the penalty box, with the Devils pulling their goaltender.
The Giants goaltender stood firm, however, as the five point lead at the top of the league stayed intact.