Belfast Giants 5 Glasgow Clan 1
The Boxing Day clash was renamed for the return of English centre Jonathan Boxill, who has signed a short-term deal to cover a spate of absences in the Giants’ squad, and he helped lead them to a comfortable 5-1 win on home ice.
But it was two of the Giants’ other centres who did all of the heavy lifting, Tyler Soy taking his season goal tally to four with a double and Slater Doggett doing likewise to hit six for the campaign as both continue to find some form following slow starts to the season.
The other came courtesy of winger J.J. Piccinich, who struck a team-leading seventh powerplay goal of the campaign in a performance that at times made you forget this is a Giants side who were playing their first game in two weeks after a Covid-19 outbreak within the squad.
Netminder Tyler Beskorowany was only one period away from a sixth shut-out of the season as he was only beaten once on the powerplay by Clan defenceman Mitch Jones, who had an explosive end to the game, on an otherwise relatively comfortable 25-save night.
A 2-for-3 powerplay spearheaded the offensive charge, Piccinich and Soy both finding the twine on the man advantage, although probably the only negative head coach Adam Keefe will take away from the game will be their 0-for-1 penalty kill.
The win moves Keefe’s men onto 11-5-0 for the Premier Sports Elite League campaign and keeps them nine points behind league leaders the Sheffield Steelers with three games still to make up on their rivals.
Given the circumstances around the game, Keefe likely couldn’t be happier. Unsure how his team would respond to being inactive for the majority of the last two weeks, they gave him a fairly comprehensive answer on Sunday afternoon.
Soy’s resurgence has been most pleasing, the centreman held to just one goal in his first 23 outings but now hitting his offensive stride after taking his recent scoring record to three in his last two outings with his brace against the Clan.
His first opened the scoring just 8:17 in, positioning himself nicely in the slot to get the tip on Ciaran Long’s shot from the blue-line to beat Shane Starrett – 40 saves – down low.
His second – 5:32 into the middle frame on the powerplay with Glasgow captain Dyson Stevenson in the box for roughing – meanwhile, was a good piece of opportunistic finishing, the centre lurking at the crease and when Starrett deflected Doggett’s initial shot back it was Soy there for the tap-in.
Doggett himself looks to have found something, too, the forward having a three-point night as he ripped in the Giants’ fourth, taking the feed from Ben Lake between the circle and smashing one past Starrett to make it 4-0 at 11:33 of the second.
It was he who rounded off the scoring, too, with a fine solo effort just 4:26 from the final buzzer, rounding a defenceman and sliding it home five-hole on Starrett which took the final score to 5-1.
Before all that, Piccinich had made it 15 goals on the season when he also added a powerplay goal at 16:17 of the first – Mikko Vainonen off for slashing – as David Goodwin delivered a sweet pass from behind the net for the wing to tap-in as he crashed the crease.
On their only powerplay of the game the Clan ensured they wouldn’t suffer back-to-back shutouts at the hands of the Giants, Jones ripping one in from the blue-line at 5:27 of the final period with Lewis Hook in the box for hooking.
Jones then ended his night in a less memorable way than his goal, the defenceman ejected from the game with only 1:30 remaining after clashing with Doggett and then knocking a linesman to the ice, exiting the game firing verbals at the officials and to the jeers of the SSE Arena crowd.
Keefe threw both Doggett and Soy on the ice for the final powerplay to try and get them a hat-trick, but both will be delighted with their night’s work, as will their head coach.