Belfast Giants throw it away in Cardiff
Cardiff Devils 5 Belfast Giants 2
Cardiff Devils 5 Belfast Giants 2: Doug Christiansen last night ended up empty-handed for the first time as Belfast Giants coach.
And it will be little consolation to him and his players that they were involved in an absolute thriller in Cardiff, with the Devils claiming a 5-2 win.
The major disappointment for the Giants is that they were coasting in the first period after building up a 2-0 lead with just 14 minutes one the clock and they also had further chances later in the game.
It was two powerplay goals from the home side and an empty net strike in the closing minute as the Giants pulled Stephen Murphy in an attempt to rescue something from the game that gives the scoreline a one-sided look, but the game was anything but.
Missing the injured Brandon Benedict — who scored the winner in Coventry last Sunday night — the Giants conceded a penalty in the opening minute of the game and had Murphy to thank for keeping the score blank.
Two powerplay opportunities went begging before, on 12 minutes, the Giants took the lead.
Tim Cook was involved, but it was the Hemingway brothers who did the real damage, with Colin supplying sibling Brett to take full advantage of an error from Devils player-coach Gerad Adams by opening the scoring.
After scoring twice in the 5-1 home victory over the Edinburgh Capitals on Saturday night, Mike Hoffman continued his fine form, making it three goals for the weekend when he doubled the advantage a couple of minutes later.
Stuart MacRae had been sent to the box for a slashing offence and Colin Hemingway’s pass to Richard Seeley and his subsequent delivery to Hoffman was finished with aplomb, with the Devils’ former Giants goaltender Stevie Lyle also culpable.
The Devils had matched the Giants all the way, other than in the scoring and got themselves back into the game after 15 minutes when MacRae and Tylor Michel linked up before San Smith reduced the deficit.
The Giants lead was then wiped out completely within three minutes of the restart when Mike Bayrack was penalised for tripping, which allowed Jon Pelle to level matters on the power play.
And just over a minute later Cardiff’s momentum helped them take the lead, with Ryan Finnerty on the mark.
The Giants threw everything at Lyle for the remainder of the second period, but did everything but score — including hitting the crossbar — as they searched for an equaliser, to set up a final 20 minutes of winner-takes-all ice hockey, while Cardiff were also the width of a post from stretching their lead, with Phil Hill striking the pipework.
With things remaining nip and tuck, it wasn’t until seven minutes from the end that Pelle doubled his tally to make it 4-2.
Christiansen then pulled Murphy on a powerplay, making it six skaters against four, but the Giants couldn’t find a way through.
It was time to go for broke and with Murphy off the ice again, with more than two minutes left on the clock, Pelle shot wide of the empty net as he went looking for a hat-trick.
Scott Matzka had better luck with a minute left to kill off the Giants’ comeback hopes.