Guildford Flames 1 Belfast Giants 3
These are the kinds of games that sometimes aren’t the ones you reflect on fondest when you win trophies, but they tend to be the ones that matter most.
On the road just four days after Christmas and facing into a difficult run of three games in five days, the Belfast Giants walked away from the Guildford Spectrum with a valuable 3-1 win over the Flames, taking their winning run to six-in-a-row in the Premier Sports Elite League.
J.J. Piccinich’s double proved to be the winning of the game, opening the scoring just 4:17 in and he added the second, the game-winner, at 5:19 of the third to take his season tally up to 17 goals.
Ian Watters denied Tyler Beskorowany a sixth shut-out of the season when he made it a one-goal game again with 8:47 remaining, but Ben Lake put the result to bed when he roofed the third just over a minute later to round off the scoring – only his third of the campaign.
With the win, the Giants move to 12-5-0 on the season and return to nine points behind leaders the Sheffield Steelers, still with three games in hand over their rivals, and their winning momentum has them in fine fettle ahead of tomorrow’s return home to face the Dundee Stars.
Even though these games may not not be the most memorable, Giants head coach Adam Keefe will probably want his side to hold onto this performance for a while as, despite the narrow scoreline, the gulf between the two sides was anything but.
That was evidenced by an incredibly one-sided shot count that saw Flames netminder Kevin Lindskoug worked roughly three times harder than Beskorowany, the Giants out-shooting their hosts 47-16 and having Jordan Boucher, Griffin Reinhart and Piccinich all hit the frame of the goal throughout the game.
Perhaps their inability to beat Lindskoug on more occasions is something they will want addressed before the Stars game, as will an 0-for-5 powerplay that could have broken the game open multiple times, but shutting down an offensively dangerous opponent — including going 4-for-4 on the penalty kill — will be immensely pleasing for Keefe.
"I thought it was a great game from our side," praised Keefe. "We could have up a few more after the first period but all being said, I thought it was a great period from us.
"Really happy with our guys and going into that third period it was a big challenge for our guys, only one goal up on the road. We knew Guildford was going to push, and they did, getting that one goal back. But I liked our group's composure to get a couple of o-zone shifts and then get that third goal that gave us a little breathing room."
Scott Conway was the provider for Piccinich’s opener, the GB centre floating the pass into the slot for the onrushing winger and although he didn’t get the perfect contact on the puck, it was enough to slide through Lindskoug’s five-hole just 4:17 in.
Boucher and Reinhart both rang the post before the first intermission, and then Piccinich and Conway both saw shorthanded chances denied by Lindskoug in a scoreless second, while Beskorowany needed to make a big stop to deny Robert Lachowicz, also shorthanded.
But 5:19 into the third Piccinich settled it when he latched onto a loose pass in the Flames zone from Spencer Trapp and, despite breaking his stick on the shot, forced it under Lindskoug for 2-0 and the winning goal.
Watters made it interesting when he poked the puck home at the crease from Brett Ferguson’s pass behind the net at 11:13, but only 1:09 later Lake wrapped up the points when he battled hard to win the puck in the offensive zone, waited out Lindskoug and roofed it home for the clincher.