Belfast Telegraph

"It reminded me of Slap Shot..." - what exactly happened in the second period of the Belfast Giants' win over Bili Tygri Liberec?

Belfast Giants' Kevin Raine drops the gloves with Bili Tygri Liberec's Jan Ordos during Thursday night's Champions League game (William Cherry/Presseye)
Belfast Giants' Kevin Raine drops the gloves with Bili Tygri Liberec's Jan Ordos during Thursday night's Champions League game (William Cherry/Presseye)
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Normally, a Belfast Giant dropping gloves with one of his opponents would be one of the headlines in a game.

But it spoke volumes of how crazy the second period of yesterday's Champions League win over Bili Tygri Liberec was that Kevin Raine's fight with Jan Ordos was probably only the third most notable thing in the 20 minutes.

It had Liberec head coach Patrik Augusta likening it to the comedy movie Slap Shot and had the crowd on their feet on multiple occasions for very different reasons.

By the time Raine - and his majestic hair flick - had left the ice, we'd already had two goals, a massive open ice hit and several mini-scraps. 105 minutes' worth of penalties were handed out between the two teams.

In blunt terms, it was chaos.

"It was feisty, it was emotional. On both sides it was emotional," said winger Bobby Farnham.

"In between the second and third we did a good job coming out and establishing how we wanted to play. We got caught up in it for a little bit but then we levelled back down and played hockey."

It was a little bit ironic too, given how little bite there was in the first period, aside from a minor fracas at the end of the period that saw Curtis Leonard and Liberec forward Michal Bulir sit for two to start the second.

What we couldn't have known, however, was that would be the first niggle in what would prove to be an explosive second period.

It all kicked off after Brian Ward had ripped home his first of the night to start the second period - at the time to put the Giants ahead 3-2 - and, unsurprisingly, the man who started it all was Matt Pelech.

Skating behind his own net, the captain laid out a bone-shattering hit - which was clean as a whistle - on Bulir, crumpling the winger onto the ice and prompting outrage on the Liberec bench.

The Czechs tried to goad Pelech into further action, swarming him on the ice and trying to get in his face, but to no avail. The savvy blue-liner kept his distance and simply smiled at the Liberec bench.

"Hockey's fun. When you're winning it's fun, when you're playing hard it's fun. If you're having fun out there, you're probably doing the right stuff and helping the team win," grinned the defenceman after the game.

"I'm just trying to stay mean and clean and stay out of the box and help the team any way I can."

That hit, in turn, sparked the events of the rest of the period.

From then on, Liberec targeted Pelech in an attempt to gain revenge, but every time they tried to hit him he was always one step ahead of them, either by side-stepping checks or ignoring them altogether.

Instead, they went for the rest of the team and, unfortunately for Jesse Forsberg, he became the target, shipping a massive hit against the boards by Ladislav Smid that knocked him out of the game.

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Belfast Giants' Ben Lake squares up to Bili Tygri Liberec's Lukas Derner during Thursday night's Champions Hockey League game (William Cherry/Presseye)

Jean Dupuy stood up for his stricken team-mate by wrapping the Czech d-man in a headlock - earning him a 2+2 for roughing, and Smid just a minor - but the drama was far from over.

First, Liberec equalised after a contentious penalty to Farnham - which looked soft in the extreme - as Libor Hudacek grabbed his second powerplay marker of the night, much to the chagrin of the vociferous crowd.

They would soon be cheering for a different reason though.

Enter Raine, the defenceman tangling with Ordos in the defensive zone and deciding enough was enough. The pair dropped gloves and squared up to each other, only for it to quickly become apparent there was no contest.

After it was all said and done, Ordos hadn't laid a finger on his opponent and was left to pick himself up off the ice with more than just his pride hurting.

It was a massive psychological win for the Giants, and they got another one with just 20 seconds of the period left when Curtis Hamilton fired them into the lead again with a brilliant finish from the right circle.

Amazingly, the goal itself wasn't the talking point.

After Hamilton had scored, Liberec captain Petr Jelinek followed through on Ben Lake providing the screen in front of goal and proceeded to barrel him over on top of his own netminder, Justin Peters, leaving them all in a heap on the floor.

Giants winger Jordan Smotherman was next man in to defend his team-mate, and once the mess on the ice had been sorted out, Jelinek's game was over as he was sent down the tunnel.

"We had some moments where we needed to stick up for each other, and that happened. I think we did a good job being composed," commented Smotherman.

"We knew coming into the CHL that composure and staying out of the box was important and I think we did a great job."

On the other hand, it would prove costly for Liberec. Not only did Jelinek's hot-headedness strip them of their captain, the Giants got the game-winner while on the powerplay during his major penalty.

But, more importantly, what happened during the second period shows that this Giants team has the capabilities to mix it with the best in Europe whenever they get their game going.

They play with an uncomfortable style that will frustrate teams, while at the same time it's not negative either, and sides will be wary of the positions they get themselves into, particularly when they know that the likes of Pelech and Paul Swindlehurst are patrolling the blue-line.

As well as that, it looks like they know how to control the edge that they have this season. At no point were they drawn into penalties by Liberec, while the Czechs themselves were guilty of losing their heads when everything was going down.

This is a smart team, and if they want to keep this momentum going in the CHL and potentially cause a major splash beyond just one win, they need to keep it that way.

"I thought the guys did a good job keeping themselves composed during that time. We have a physical team that can handle themselves, but there's a time and a place," said head coach Adam Keefe.

"We spoke about discipline and what it would take to win this game. It was important the guys kept their composure and they did so."

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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