Belfast Giants suffer overtime defeat to Manchester Storm
The margins of victory can sometimes be tiny, and so the Belfast Giants found out as they fell to a 2-1 overtime defeat at the Manchester Storm in the opening game of their Elite League season.
Having finished tied after regulation, the Giants saw Jean Dupuy hit the post in overtime mere seconds before Storm winger Jared Aulin went up the other end and settled the tie 54 seconds into the extra period.
Dupuy, who also dropped the gloves with Storm d-man Mathieu Gagnon in the second period, earned the turnover at the blueline but found the iron with his backhand, allowing Manchester to break, and Aulin picked up a rebound from Layne Ulmer’s initial shot to finish it off.
The loss means the Giants start the season 0-1-0 and start their title defence on a disappointing note, even though they do take a point away from Planet Ice Altrincham.
Already down two men in the injured pair of Jesse Forsberg and Liam Reddox, the Giants’ short-benched roster was stretched even further with the absence of Patrick Mullen after he picked up a knock in their win over the Glasgow Clan on Saturday night.
For the second consecutive night it was Shane Owen who got the start in nets and he did everything he could to help the Giants by making 30 saves, however he was powerless to deny the winner.
Once again the Giants’ powerplay was poor as it went 0-for-3, while the visitors also hit three posts as they just could not find that telling shot that would hand them their opening victory of the league campaign.
Adam Keefe’s men had even been ahead at 10:10 of the first period when Curtis Hamilton grabbed his third goal of the season, the winger skating in on the odd man rush and snapping one low past Matt Ginn in the Storm net.
Just like the previous night, Belfast’s penalty kill was strong in the first period, going 3-for-3, and it nearly yielded a second goal just before the first intermission when Dupuy unleashed a fierce drive that pinged the left post and ricocheted away.
But eventually the weight of the penalties cost them in the second period and, after they killed off a delay of game to Ciaran Long, the dam finally burst at 14:32 of the middle stanza when Dupuy headed off for a dubious interference call and Ulmer pulled the hosts level by redirecting in Aulin’s pass from behind the net.
Belfast should have been further ahead by that stage too, Patryk Wronka passing up a glorious chance to double their lead shortly before Ulmer’s powerplay marker when he went one-on-one with Ginn and failed to convert, with Lewis Hook fanning on the follow-up effort.
Wronka was one of the visitors’ biggest threats in the offensive zone, and it was he who nearly put them back ahead at the second intermission when he produced the Giants’ second post of the game, firing backhanded against the iron on the wraparound before things boiled over.
The busy Dupuy and Storm defenceman Mathieu Gagnon got in each other’s faces late in the second period to earn conflicting roughing calls, and when they both emerged from the box, the pair dropped the gloves to earn themselves a trip to the box.
A tense final period saw both sides have looks, however neither side could beat the respective netminders, Owen coming up strong early in the period when Belfast ran into more penalty trouble, while Ginn - who made 35 saves on the night - produced some big stops late to take it to overtime.
In the 3-on-3 extra period, Dupuy had a great chance to send the visitors home happy, but once his shot rebounded away, Aulin made no mistake at the other end.
The Giants return to Challenge Cup duty next Saturday when they welcome the Dundee Stars (2-0-1) to the SSE Arena for their second group game (face-off 7.30pm).
Belfast Telegraph Digital