Jon Pelle’s stunning Belfast Giants debut wouldn’t have happened if Brock McBride had been fit for Saturday night’s 6-2 victory over the Cardiff Devils.
As things turned out for the Giants, a minor injury — although major enough to mean he stayed in Belfast rather than making the trip to Wales — to their leading goalscorer was a blessing in disguise.
McBride was ruled out of the game on Friday and when medical experts decided that Pelle’s recovery from an early-season injury was complete, Doug Christiansen had no hesitation in thrusting him into the action.
And he’s glad he did after Pelle notched a terrific hat-trick as the Giants blitzed his former club.
“We were told on Thursday that Brock was unlikely for Saturday and on Friday it was confirmed that he wouldn’t play,” said Christiansen.
“The timeline with Pelle was pretty similar. On Thursday we were told that if he came through another day of practice pain free then there was no problem with him.
“Putting him in was a no-brainer and it worked out very well.”
Pelle, who topped the league’s goalscoring charts last season, took less than six minutes to score his first goal for the Giants and after Brad Voth equalised he restored the lead just 34 seconds into the second period.
Scott Dobben levelled the scores again in the 32nd minute, but after that they had no answer to a rampant Giants team.
Jeff Mason scored on a powerplay in the 39th minute and Pelle’s hat-trick goal came 35 seconds before the end of the second period.
Derek LeBlanc and Adam Keefe then piled the agony onto the Devils in the final period as the Giants claimed their second victory in Cardiff this season and took their winning streak to 10 successive games.
Although Christiansen took the decision to play Pelle on Friday evening, it wasn’t until the line-ups for the game were announced 24-hours later that the Giants let everyone else in on the secret.
“The last thing we wanted was to turbo-charge the Cardiff fans, so we slid Jon in under the radar,” said Christiansen.
Pelle can now claim to have emulated an NHL great after the sensational opening to his Giants career.
Theo Fleury also scored a hat-trick on his Belfast Giants debut before going on to lead the team to the Elite League title back in 2006.
That will be the next target for Pelle.
“I’m not sure there are many comparisons other than that, but it was definitely a good night for Jon,” said Christiansen.
“He was elated on the bench and I was very pleased for him.”