Belfast Giants 5 Glasgow Clan 1
Belfast Giants head coach Adam Keefe hailed his side’s defensive resilience as they bounced back from their Covid-enforced break with a 5-1 win over rivals the Glasgow Clan at the SSE Arena.
Despite missing defencemen Jeff Baum and Mark Garside, which meant forward Ciaran Long and 17-year-old Kell Beattie formed the third defensive pairing, the Giants limited the Clan to almost nothing, the only shot that denied Tyler Beskorowany — 25 saves — a sixth shut-out of the season coming from Mitch Jones on the powerplay.
That allowed doubles from Slater Doggett and Tyler Soy, and a team-leading seventh powerplay goal of the season from J.J. Piccinich, at the other end to lead them to victory and move their record to 11-5-0 in the Elite League, nine points behind leaders the Sheffield Steelers but with three games in hand.
Despite their long lay-off, the Giants showed no signs of rustiness and Keefe praised his rearguard for shutting the door at one end and allowing his forwards to shine at the other.
“The balance right now is good. I guess the challenge is to do it consistently, and we have to find it consistently across all three lines,” said the head coach.
“But one thing we haven’t talked about is our defence. The last three games we’ve been playing with four or five d-men and doing a great job of it, and that’s kudos to them.
“It’s probably why we have the lowest goals against in the league. We make it very hard for other teams to enter the zone and they’re doing a great job.
“Not only are we finding some goal scoring we have a shut down mentality at the other end.”
After slow starts to the season, Doggett and Soy have sprung into life over recent weeks and are starting to look like the offensive weapons that Keefe envisaged them being when he brought them to Belfast.
Doggett in particular rapped in two beauties, his second a lovely solo effort, to move onto six goals for the season, while Soy now has three in his last two outings after scoring just one in his first 23 games in teal.
The two centremen spearheaded the offensive effort at the SSE Arena that downed the Clan, and Keefe was thrilled by the energy shown by his side coming out of their unexpected break.
“I thought the vibe was really good in the locker room when we ended things. Then shutting down for at least ten days there was bad timing in a sense,” admitted Keefe.
“But we wanted to pick up where we left off and there were some positives out of that that we got some bodies back from injury as a result of that break. We got to train in small groups and there was some great energy.
“When you get a chance to come back as a group, there’s an excitement and I felt that today, not just in pre-game skate but before the game. There was an added energy and that showed.”