Belfast Telegraph

Giants can't arrest slump as losing streak hits four with defeat in Coventry

Coventry Blaze 6-3 Belfast Giants

Belfast Giants defenceman Mark Garside battles with Coventry Blaze winger Janne Laakkonen (William Cherry/Presseye)
Belfast Giants defenceman Mark Garside battles with Coventry Blaze winger Janne Laakkonen (William Cherry/Presseye)
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

COVENTRY, Eng -- The Belfast Giants have questions to answer about themselves after yet another defeat, but they'll have plenty of questions to ask as well.

The first will be as to how the Coventry Blaze were awarded their fourth goal on their way to a 6-3 win at the SkyDome over Adam Keefe's side, the go-ahead strike seemingly awarded with no real evidence as to it being a definitive goal.

With the Blaze on the powerplay early in the third, a melee at the crease eventually saw Luke Ferrara prod the puck through the traffic and into the net despite the cage coming off its moorings and Giants netminder Shane Owen seemingly having it corralled.

But only the referees will know how it was actually given in the end, the officials having congregated by the penalty boxes and, without taking it to video review, awarding the goal having not initially given it on the ice to put the Blaze up 4-3.

Having fallen behind, Belfast saw Matt Pohlkamp add a fifth with a nicely taken shot from the blue-line at 15:12 of the final period to seal the deal, with David Broll's empty netter - his second of the night - merely the icing on the cake for the hosts, who were backed by a 33-save display from Jamie Phillips in goal.

It was a night of special teams agony for the Giants, who not only went 0-for-2 on their own man advantage but also gave up a shorthanded goal and went 1-for-3 on the penalty kill as they dropped both games on the weekend for the second weekend in a row.

"Special teams as a whole were not very good this weekend. It’s the reason why we’re looking at no points this weekend. They cost us and that’s disappointing," said head coach Keefe.

"You don’t want to say too much as our penalty kill has been spectacular this season. This weekend it wasn’t and our powerplay was no better."

That's now a four-game losing streak for Belfast, who have fallen to 8-6-2 on the season and have the prospect of going to the similarly out-of-form Cardiff Devils next weekend trying to arrest their troubling slump.

Offensively they did see things improve with more chance creation, with Patryk Wronka ending a streak without a goal since October 25, but defensively they gave little protection to netminder Shane Owen, who made just 25 saves, and will need to find something to break this habit quickly.

"We've just got to keep working, keep trying to play with our identity for 60 minutes. This league is too good, we're not going to win if we play for 50 minutes every night," said captain Pelech.

"I feel like for the most part we play well, but then we have those lapses and those breakdowns that keep costing us. That's the hardest part of these games."

It appeared the Giants' offensive problems had travelled across with them early when Jean Dupuy failed to notice Liam Reddox one-on-one with Phillips and couldn't supply him with the pass.

But they did pull ahead at 8:38, the visitors winning the face-off in the offensive zone and Wronka sniped one short-side on Phillips for the opener to make it 1-0.

Had it not been for Owen at the other end, the Blaze would have been level at the first intermission, the Giants netminder going post-to-post to make a larcenous stop to deny Evan Bloodoff from Charles Corcoran's dished pass.

His opposite number made a big instinct save to deny Brian Ward early in the second, before Corcoran tied it up shorthanded with Bloodoff in the box for hooking.

Ward and Wronka had drawn another big stop from Phillips on the man advantage before the Blaze went the other way, Corcoran getting in on Owen and finishing backhanded through the five-hole at 5:18 of the middle period for 1-1.

The Giants had their chances, and they were quality ones too, with the offensive creation much better than in previous games, with two odd-man rushes leading to a shot from Bobby Farnham and Liam Reddox nearly finding Farnham for the back door play shortly after.

Mark Garside, fresh off snapping his scoring drought the night before, almost manufactured another goal for himself when he bounced one off the back boards and got to the loose puck, only for Phillips to save, before Curtis Hamilton rang the iron from the blue-line.

Coventry nearly had a gift of a go-ahead goal however, a giveaway from Paul Swindlehurst seeing Luke Ferrara find the rushing Travis Hamonic to bring out a good stop from Owen.

But it would be Farnham that put the Giants back ahead, finishing off a brilliant passing move that saw Lewis Hook find Ben Lake from behind the net and the former Blaze centre squared for the winger to slam home for 2-1 at 11:21.

That should have become a two-goal lead when Ward was presented with an empty net and somehow fired wide mere seconds later, and he paid when the Blaze levelled it up again, Corcoran batting a loose puck out of the air and past an unsighted Owen just 23 seconds after the Giants had retaken the lead to tie it up at 2-2.

Things then took a crucial turn when Matt Pelech headed off for tripping as Belfast saw an opportunity to take the lead once again suddenly see them fall behind for the first time to a powerplay goal.

At one end, Lake was felled as he bore down on Phillips by Janne Laakkonen to earn the penalty shot, only to fire over the cage having forced the netminder to the ice.

At the other end, Broll was in no mood to be so forgiving. John Curran supplied the pass across the face of goal and the Blaze captain applied the finish at 13:46 to put the hosts up for the first time at 3-2 with his first of the night.

If the second period had been a bit hectic, then the start to the third was madcap as Lake took a hooking call just 29 seconds in and the Blaze nearly doubled their lead when a scramble at the net almost saw the puck forced by a helpless Owen.

All that allowed was for Pelech to tie it up 3-3 at 0:53 of the final period, Liam Reddox nearly forcing the wraparound after an aggressive forecheck, but when the puck was worked back to the captain at the blue-line, he banked it in off the iron for the tying goal.

But once again it was down to the special teams that saw the Giants fall behind, they themselves unable to take the lead on the powerplay when Curran was sent to the box for goaltender interference before the bizarre sequence of events that led to the game-winner.

At just a goal down, the Giants were still in it, but the hosts collapsed around the goal well to protect goaltender Phillips, and they clinched it when Pohlkamp smashed in his shot from the blue that took a deflection, with Broll sealing it with the empty netter 2:27 from time.

"We knew before the six-game winning streak we had some problems. The winning streak band-aided that. Now it’s been ripped off again,” blasted Keefe.

“There’s no question we’re struggling to get consistent scoring and tonight we struggled to keep the puck out of the net too. That, coupled with special teams this weekend, is an odd recipe for success.”

The Giants are back in action next weekend for a massive double-header against the Cardiff Devils at the Viola Arena on Saturday and Sunday, and they will need something to change quickly to turn things around.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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