Belfast Telegraph

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Giants make it nine wins on the spin to increase lead

Guildford Flames 1 Belfast Giants 4

By Adam McKendry

The Belfast Giants picked up their ninth straight league win and increased their lead at the top of the Elite League standings to four points with a 4-1 win over the Guildford Flames.

Paul Swindlehurst got the game winner in the second period, after Darcy Murphy and Brett Ferguson traded goals in the first period, with Blair Riley and David Rutherford adding two empty-netters in the final minute to add some gloss to the scoreline.

Tyler Beskorowany continues to push up his incredible numbers after he turned away 33 of the 34 shots on his goal, while Jonathan Boxill took the man of the match award for a fine performance that yielded an assist.

After taking Saturday's 2-1 win over the Blaze in Coventry, the Giants now lead the Elite League by four points thanks to their wins and Milton Keynes' overtime win at the Cardiff Devils.

It's been a brilliant return to domestic action for Belfast after their Continental Cup exploits last week, continuing their fine form in domestic competition.

Going into the game, the Giants had a score to settle with the Flames - the last team to beat them in the league - and the visitors' start to the game suggested they wanted to make a point.

A breathless start saw both sides have excellent chances in an opening exchange that didn't see a stoppage for six minutes - and when it did come, it was for Belfast's opener.

It was winger Darcy Murphy who got it, set up by David Rutherford, at 6:19 when his precise shot beat Guildford goaltender Travis Fullerton.

Adam Keefe would have been delighted by the start his side made, particularly after their bruising encounter with Coventry the night before, and Patrick Dwyer nearly added a second when he tested Fullerton shorthanded, only to find the goalie equal to his effort.

At the other end, the Flames were clinical, however, and they grabbed an equaliser at 11:42.

In a rare error from Beskorowany, the netminder could only bat Kruise Reddick's shot back out in front, and Brett Ferguson was the first to reach the puck to slam in the rebound.

That took the game into the second period, where the Giants again started the brighter, although they couldn't find an early goal as Fullerton made a smart stop from Blair Riley, while Francis Beauvillier saw a redirect at the crease go just wide.

At the other end, Beskorowany did well to shut down a threatening two-on-one for the hosts, before Belfast began to ramp up the pressure towards the end of the middle period.

It was beginning to look like they wouldn't get the reward for some good zone time in the Guildford defensive end, but they finally found their reward when Swindlehurst skated on to the puck and fired his shot over Fullerton's stick side at 35:22.

A great chance fell the way of the Flames just before the second intermission, with Ian Watters inches from connecting with a deep pass when he perhaps should have levelled, taking the Giants in at the second intermission ahead.

Hunter Bishop had a tip in front just go wide of the net to begin the third period, however the majority of the final third had Guildford on top as they sought to draw level.

Beskorowany made a good low save before lady luck smiled upon the visitors when a hard-hit shot crashed off the bar, and that seemed to signal that it wouldn't be the Flames' night.

And when Fullerton was pulled for the extra attacker late in the game, and the Giants turned the puck over in their own zone, it allowed Riley to finish into the empty cage at 19:01 to seal the two points.

Not willing to call it a lost cause yet, Guildford won the face-off and pulled Fullerton again, which allowed Rutherford to add a second empty-netter at 19:17 to put the icing on the cake.

Belfast are back in Challenge Cup action on Wednesday night when they travel to Dundee to take on the Stars in the first leg of their quarter-final (face-off 7:30pm).

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