Baun hits treble as ruthless Belfast Giants ground Fife Flyers
Belfast Giants 7-0 Fife Flyers
Needing a win to keep the title race alive, the Belfast Giants did that and then some, with Kyle Baun's hat-trick the pick of the many storylines on the night.
On any other night, Baun's treble - which took his goal tally for the season to 37 - would have stood out, but in the same game defenceman Kevin Raine scored his first goal at the SSE Arena for the Giants, Lewis Hook ended his own goal drought and netminder Tyler Beskorowany kept his sixth shutout in teal.
Playing his 118th game for the Giants, Raine finally opened his account at the SSE Arena with his strike 1:54 into the second period, jumping into the rush and being found on the reverse pass by Chris Higgins to finish five-hole on Fife Flyers netminder Shane Owen.
"Felt pretty good, I tried to go high blocker and put it along the ice!" laughed the defenceman, whose goal was only his second in his Giants career. "As soon as I fanned on it, I thought it'd blown it!
"I had a little bit of swag after that, got a bit excited and crossed wires a bit, I was playing awful defence but somehow was founding gaps offensively. Little different for me tonight but that's okay, I missed scoring goals so it was really good to get one."
On the same night that Lewis Hook broke his own goal duck with his own finish 4:55 into the third, the Giants drew level with the Cardiff Devils at the top of the Elite League table - albeit having played a game more - and improved to 44-13-2 on the season.
It means the title race stays alive for at least another night, with the Giants even capable of winning the trophy tomorrow if they can defeat the Dundee Stars in regulation and, at the same time, Cardiff are beaten in regulation at home by basement side the Milton Keynes Lightning.
"It's a shame that we're chasing guys we don't even to get to play again this year unless we get them in the play-offs, so we'll see how the rest of the weekend plays out," added Raine.
"I like that we've taken it to the last weekend and that it hasn't ended in early March. We'll see how it pans out. We'll come in tomorrow and win a hockey game, see what happens."
Hook was the one who capped off a brilliant night at the office for Belfast, scoring the hosts' fourth when he went on an odd-man rush and finished superbly with a snapshot from the left circle, beating Flyers backup netminder Andrew Little shortside.
"It was nice to score. We needed to win, and by that time I think the result was pretty secure, but it was nice to get the monkey off the shoulder and score again, get back on the gamesheet," said Hook.
"It wasn't worrying me, as long as I'm playing well and proving to the coaching staff that I can play on this team and be part of wins then I'm happy."
The Giants had chased starter Owen - 36 saves on 39 shots - just 4:23 into the third period when they forged three ahead, and it was Baun who grabbed his second of the game on the powerplay when he picked the puck out of the air and jammed it into the top shelf with Ricards Birzins in the box for a cross check.
It was Baun's night, and it was the winger who put the Giants ahead from the start after just 43 seconds, stabbing in a rebound after Patrick Dwyer had tipped Kendall McFaull's pass to the crease on Owen and the netminder could only bat it back into the crease.
And it was late in the third that the Toronto native completed his hat-trick - which prompted three hats to be chucked onto the ice - ripping a shot past Little from the mid-slot with 3:21 remaining in the game to cap off a sublime performance.
"It was great to get the win in the way we did. We want to ride this wave into the play-offs and get some momentum, and both games so far this week have been great," said Baun.
The powerplay was 2-for-4 on the night, while the penalty kill was even better at a 3-for-3 clip, with the other powerplay goal seeing Darcy Murphy edge closer to the half-century mark on the season when he cracked a snapshot five-hole with 4:10 remaining in the third period.
In between Hook breaking his duck and Murphy getting his goal, Dwyer had also managed to get himself in the goals column when he benefited from some wonderful stick handling from Murphy, the forward going up the middle and laying the backhand across the crease for the veteran to slide in his 30th of the season at 12:24 of the third.
Beskorowany's shutout is one of the easiest he'll ever complete in his career, the goaltender tested just 17 times across the three periods - and rarely tested seriously either - and although it was he who took the head taps at the final buzzer, it could have easily been any of his team-mates.
This was ruthless. They need to do the same again against Dundee tomorrow (face-off 7pm).
"Tomorrow is going to be a big game. They play us well, they have all year, but we want to keep doing what we've been doing," added Baun.
Belfast Telegraph Digital