Guildford Flames 1 Belfast Giants 4
Belfast Giants head coach Adam Keefe praised his side for producing a comeback on the road and avoiding a third straight defeat for the first time this season.
After losing back-to-back games at the Glasgow Clan and Cardiff Devils, which came directly after a 12-game winning streak, the Giants were on their way to another loss when Levi Cable put Guildford Flames ahead in the first period.
However, the Giants roared back to take the lead at the second intermission through goals from Jordan Boucher and Scott Conway, and they finished strongly with late goals in the final two minutes from Mark Cooper and Sam Ruopp, with goalie Tyler Beskorowany saving 27 shots to keep the Flames at bay and pick up their 20th win of the season.
Combined with Sheffield Steelers’ 3-2 loss at Dundee Stars at the same time, the Giants remain just three points off the top of the Premier Sports Elite League; it was a big result in the context of their season.
“I thought it was a really high paced game,” said Keefe. “Guildford skated really well and challenged us to be on our A game, to work hard to stay above it and manage that speed. I think that’s the fastest team we’ve played against this season.”
“I’m really proud of our guys for sticking with it because it was tough going down a goal with what we’ve been going through in the last couple games, not scoring a ton.
“But the guys stuck with it and played the right way and in the end they got rewarded for it, which is nice to see.”
Cable had put the Flames ahead at 13:53 when he finished a breakaway, with Brett Ferguson beating Beskorowany short-side from the edge of the right circle, but besides that the Giants netminder was rock solid, and they needed him to be when the Flames piled on the pressure.
With the score 2-1 early in the third, he produced four big stops on Ian Watters twice, Ferguson and Cable.
It was Ferguson in the box for holding that allowed Boucher to tie things up at 5:34 of the second, the winger’s strike ending a run of 10 powerplays without a goal for the Giants as he batted the puck out of the air with his seventh powerplay goal.
Conway, with his team-leading 22nd goalof the season, then put the visitors one to the good at the second intermission when he roofed the puck from a tight angle off Kevin Raine’s rebound at 16:14 after a long video review.
Despite Beskorowany’s heroics early in the third, the Giants still weren’t out of the woods when Jeff Baum took a hooking call, but the flawless penalty kill — which ran 4-for-4 on the night — came up big one more time to kill it off and keep them ahead.
That allowed Cooper to tap in Slater Doggett’s pass with 1:09 left for his seventh goal of the season and ensure the two points would head back across the Irish Sea, while Ruopp completed the scoring with 19 seconds remaining, sliding the puck into the empty net