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Belfast Giants team-mates heap praise on 'phenomenal' Beskorowany



Belfast Giants netminder Tyler Beskorowany (William Cherry/Presseye)

Belfast Giants netminder Tyler Beskorowany (William Cherry/Presseye)

William Cherry/Presseye

Belfast Giants netminder Tyler Beskorowany (William Cherry/Presseye)

Draped in a teal flag that read 'Beskomania' on the back of it, there wasn't much surprise that Tyler Beskorowany was last on the ice after all the celebrations as the fans chanted his name.

As cries of 'Besko' rang around the Viola Arena, the netminder lapped it all up, taking selfies with the fans congregated behind one end of the rink and parading around the trophy.

A video emerged last night of Beskorowany's immediate reaction when Jordan Smotherman scored the game winner, leaping into the air twice before taking off to the huddle of players celebrating down the boards. Despite the mass of pads, he wasn't far behind the rest of his team-mates.

Smotherman's name will go down on the gamesheet as having got the game-winning goal. Dustin Johner's forecheck will be reflected in the assist. But all of that would never have been possible had Beskorowany not kept Belfast alive in overtime.

The stats will at least reflect his 28 saves in regulation that took the game to extras, that much is consolation. But with shots in overtime not added to the total, his grand larceny in the fourth period will sadly never go down on any record sheet.

First was an unbelievable behind the back snag on a Jesse Craige shot from the point, followed up quickly by two blocks from Evan Janssen and a further stop when Craige again got free in the left circle. The biggest of them all wasn't the toughest one he had to make, a routine kick save on a shot from Ben Davies on the breakaway.

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But it was just as important. Ten seconds later, Smotherman had the puck in the back of the net.

"Besko stood on his head all night, saved a breakaway about 10 seconds before we get a chance to score. He made probably 20 huge saves in the game, they had some great opportunities," said game-winner Smotherman.

"He's a top class goaltender and he showed that tonight."

In line with the Giants' team first mentality, Beskorowany refused to take all the credit for keeping the side alive in overtime after regulation ended 1-1.

"I can't get too far ahead of myself, it was a couple of huge saves, but hats off to my guys in front of me, they blocked a lot of big shots in front of me and made my job a lot easier," the 28-year-old deflected.

Admirable as it is, it's fair to say that without Beskorowany it would have been a much more sombre ending for the Giants. It's hard to imagine most other netminders making the stops he did, particularly from where they were.

Janssen got in behind the Giants' defencemen to have a one-on-one look on the netminder and he couldn't find the gap either side of Beskorowany. Craige was left completely free in the left circle and snapped his shot right into the midriff of the goaltender. One stretch pass easily unlocked the Giants at the blueline to send Davies through for another one-on-one, yet all he could do was plant it on the leg pad of the man in front of him.

The Flames had three quality scoring chances in overtime. Had they taken one, they would have won the first major trophy in their team's young Elite League history. Instead, they found Beskorowany simply unbeatable.

"It was no surprise for us, he's been doing it all year. To have a goalie of his calibre is a huge help for us as d-men, and for the whole team," said defenceman Jim Vandermeer.

To put in another sensational showing was, as Vandermeer alludes to, no surprise. With a 2.27 GAA and a .921 save percentage, Beskorowany is by some distance the Elite League's top netminder this season, and his stats line is even better in the Challenge Cup.

He's stolen games for the Giants that they didn't deserve to win at times this season, on the road at Fife only a couple of weeks ago a prime example. Some of the saves he makes are bordering on the obscene, as proven in the Continental Cup push.

It's a credit to head coach Adam Keefe to have picked him up at the start of the season, recognising that his past as a former DEL Netminder of the Year was more important than his pedestrian numbers last season with the struggling Edinburgh Capitals.

"I'm extremely happy for him, he's been a warrior all year," said Keefe. "His numbers don't lie, he's the best goaltender in the league and I'm really happy that he could back us to the win tonight, especially in the fashion he did."

But, indeed, the Giants' greatest strength could prove to be a double-edged sword. He's been so good this season that clubs across Europe will be keenly interested in securing his services for next season, with a few North American teams likely to be looking with more than a passing glance.

The Canadian has made no secret of his desire to get a move back to Germany, and there are plenty of clubs there who would be more than happy for a player of his quality, meaning Belfast have a fight on their hands to convince him to return.

Such has been his importance to this team, losing him in the summer would be a hammer blow to the Giants, and replacing him with someone of similar quality would be a decidedly tall order.

In their favour, however, is how much Beskorowany is enjoying his time in the Elite League.

He's a superstar. He's a locker room leader. He's returned to his best form since his days in the DEL and is on a winning team. Throw a CHL appearance into the mix for next season and that's a pretty powerful sales pitch.

And when you hear what his team-mates say about him, it's not exactly a shock to discover that he's a well-liked guy both inside and outside of the locker room. In every facet of his everyday life he has bought into what it means to be a Belfast Giant.

So next season can be worried about later. Right now, Beskomania is in full flow and it's just provided a Championship to Belfast.

"He's phenomenal. He's the top goaltender in the league, he's played a ton of games for us, shows up every night and he's extremely valuable," praises captain Blair Riley.

"We're lucky to have him and on top of all that he's a phenomenal team-mate, a quality human being you want to play for, especially when he's giving his all for us like that."

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