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Giants hit double figures with 10-4 Elite League win over MK Lightning

By Adam McKendry

The Belfast Giants hit double figures as they took the Milton Keynes Lightning apart in a 10-4 Elite League win at the SSE Arena on Wednesday night.

David Rutherford, Steve Saviano and Brendan Connolly all scored twice for Belfast as they snapped a two-game skid to get back to winning way in a game rearranged due to poor weather a few weeks ago.

With Jackson Whistle still sidelined for the Giants, it was backup Chris Truehl between the pipes for Adam Keefe’s side, while Finnish backstop Miika Wiikman was the netminder for the Lightning.

Despite a positive start from the hosts, it was Milton Keynes who took the lead at just 3:31, captain Kevin King taking the puck at the right circle and cutting inside to the slot where he wristed a shot high past Truehl’s glove side.

The lead didn’t last long, however, and after Belfast killed off a roughing penalty for Ryan Martinelli they levelled proceedings at 8:33 when Sébastien Sylvestre’s shot from the blueline was tipped in five hole by Connolly out in front.

It was the Giants who were doing all the pressing in the first period, Blair Riley seeing a shot deflected away by Wiikman’s pads and Sylvestre rattled the iron from the high slot before they took the lead for the first time.

The second goal came moments after Evan Stoflet should have had the Lightning in front when he couldn’t finish a two-on-one with Ben Foster at the other end, and Belfast countered with pace which allowed Colin Shields to fire low past Wiikman from the right circle at 18:47.

It was Milton Keynes who started the second brighter, but it was the Giants who again struck at 25:57 as Saviano netted his first from the edge of the right circle having been found in plenty of space by Dustin Johner.

There was even controversy as Belfast had a goal ruled out when the referees ruled a puck poked past Wiikman hadn’t crossed the line, but that wasn’t to make a difference as the Giants netted three times in the final five minutes of the period.

First was Saviano’s second shorthanded at 34:55, the winger ringing home a slapshot after forcing the turnover in neutral ice, and Rutherford faked a shot before adding a well-placed wrister low past Wiikman from the slot at 36:12.

And it was captain Blair Riley who wrapped up the second period scoring when his precise shot from the edge of the right circle found the roof of the net at 39:05, beating Wiikman over his left shoulder.

That signalled the end of Wiikman’s night, he was replaced by Jindrich Pacl in nets, and the Lightning hit back to start the third when Denny Kearney tapped home a rebound at the back post at 40:55 for their second.

The five goal lead was restored almost immediately as Rutherford scored his second of the game at 41:28, winning the puck battle down the boards and skating in on Pacl before cutting back harshly at the crease to finish.

That they didn’t score any more until the 50th minute was down to good work from Pacl, but the goaltender’s resistance finally broke at 50:21 when Connolly ripped home a shot from the high slot, and then Jim Vandermeer added a ninth at 51:30.

That prompted a chance in the Belfast goal with Andrew Dickson entering, but his first job was to fish the puck out of his own net, Alex Forbes working a perfect two-on-one with Lewis Hook and the latter slid the puck home at 52:26.

The best Giants goal was saved to last, however, Sylvestre’s beautiful stick handling leaving Milton Keynes skaters in knots and Pacl on the floor as he finished at 53:36 for the 10th and final goal.

The visitors would have the last laugh however, Ben Foster finishing five hole at 58:57 after being left alone at the backdoor, but the Giants will be delighted with what will undoubtedly be a morale-boosting return to the win column.

Man of the Match: Kevin Raine (Belfast Giants)

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