Belfast Giants chalk off milestones as they ground Flyers to boost Cup chances
Belfast Giants 7-2 Fife Flyers
While picking up wins in the Challenge Cup may not register as important as the league for some, the Belfast Giants may look back on this win as significant in their season.
As well as picking up the comfortable 7-2 win, the Giants will be delighted to have seen center Jean Dupuy pick up his first goal of the season, winger Bobby Farnham also grabbed his first domestic goal.
Having initially struggled to start the season, the pair were placed on a line together by head coach Adam Keefe and excelled, Dupuy opening the scoring and finishing with two points on the night, while Farnham added the third goal of the night in the second period.
Dupuy's goal was far from pretty, coming at 5:53 of the first period, the center dropped the puck in the right circle by Liam Reddox, and although his initial shot finished short of the net after squeezing through Morrison's five-hole, Dupuy was sweeping around the other side to poke in his own rebound to open his Giants account.
It was the center who also did all the hard work for Farnham's first domestic goal of the campaign, going behind the net and digging the puck out to reverse the pass back into the slot for his line-mate to snap home the one-timer at 7:11 of the second period.
"I wasn't nervous or anything, I had my chances through the first eight games, the goal just failed to come," said Dupuy.
"It's good relief to get the first one out of the way. Now hopefully I can keep going and keep getting the same chances."
Having their offensively starved forwards back in the points column will Keefe no shortage of pleasure, while he will also have been delighted to see injured defenseman Jesse Forsberg make his return from injury in the win, albeit seeing limited ice time.
Jordan Smotherman was the star man on the night with a double, moving onto four goals for the season, and if the first was a scrappy tap-in, their second - and Smotherman's first of the night - which came at 10:13 of the first was a work of art.
Presented with the odd-man rush, Patryk Wronka had the vision to spot Jordan Smotherman skating up in support and the ability to dish the pass perfectly into his path for the winger to snap home.
Liam Morgan continues to be the pleasant surprise of the early season as he made it four goals in the opening nine games of his professional career with another strike in the win, also adding an assist, while Wronka had two assists and Brian Ward a goal and an assist.
The 22-year-old Morgan was electric again, and he made sure there'd be no third period drama when he scored just 4:09 into the final stanza, bringing the puck back out in front and finishing smartly at the near post with Flyers netminder Adam Morrison - 37 saves - unsighted.
The Giants, who improve to 2-1-0 with the victory and move clear in second in their Challenge Cup group, also got the chance to rest everyday man Shane Owen, starting Stephen Murphy in his stead and getting some quality output from the netminder before turning over to Andrew Dickson for the final few minutes.
Keefe even saw his powerplay finally spark as it came up with two goals on the night, Ward profiting from Wronka's pass out in front to snap home a one-timer on the doorstep at 16:01 of the second, before Smotherman grabbed his second of the night when his shot beat Morrison down low with 10:57 gone in the third thanks to a screen from Liam Reddox.
"First few games we were struggling, it was just a bit of a rough start. It happens almost every season with the powerplay," claimed Morgan.
"We're starting to click now, we're getting a lot more confidence going and we can't hope for much else."
There was even another goal, a team-leading sixth of the season, for Curtis Hamilton in the rout, the winger aiming to find Morgan at the back door only to see his pass diverted into his own net by the unfortunate Dylan Quaile at 13:44 of the second.
With the penalty kill continuing to be spectacular with another perfect night - going 5-for-5 - this is a performance that will leave Keefe smiling all the way across the Irish Sea tomorrow.
The Giants continue their Challenge Cup push when they play the second game of their double-header with the Flyers at the Fife Ice Arena tomorrow (face-off 6.30pm).
Belfast Telegraph Digital