Belfast Giants 7 Dundee Stars 1
Seven goals, seven wins in a row and a win to take them into the New Year — but Belfast Giants head coach Adam Keefe claims they’re not where they want to be at the start of 2022.
The Giants signed off an unforgettable year as David Goodwin’s first professional hat-trick punctuated a thumping 7-1 win over the Dundee Stars, but they are still playing catch-up in the Elite League despite their current winning streak.
Keefe’s side improved their record to 13-5-0 in the league, but they are still seven points behind the leaders Sheffield Steelers in the standings, albeit with two games to make up on their rivals, and they are one point behind second place Cardiff Devils, with three games in hand of the Welsh side.
“We want to be at the top, so we’re not where we want to be,” admitted Keefe. “But we’re in a good position here and all we can do is worry about that next game and focus on that and do our job one game at a time and see where we end up.”
Playing like this, however, and the Giants won’t be trailing for much longer, and they have a big chance to cut the gap even further on Monday when they take on the Nottingham Panthers while the Steelers are inactive having been placed in the EIHL’s Covid protocol.
Those seven wins on the spin in the league for the Giants have come despite being down bodies due to their own Covid outbreak and injuries, and their airtight defence was once again to the fore at the SSE Arena as they conceded two or less goals for the seventh straight game.
However, for a third game in a row, netminder Tyler Beskorowany’s bid for a shut-out was ruined by a third period goal, from Sebastian Bengtsson, but he turned away 17 of the 18 shots he faced in another quality start between the pipes.
At the other end, the Giants were buzzing once again, backing up Wednesday’s 47-shot night in Guildford with another big offensive display that chased Stars goaltender Adam Morrison in the third.
Goodwin was to the fore, tipping in Kevin Raine’s shot to open the scoring 18:10 in, before striking twice in quick succession at 15:00 and 19:59 of the second to round off his treble.
Just as he has been all season, J.J. Piccinich continued his lethal touch on the powerplay when he notched his eighth special teams goal of the season at 19:27 of the first, with Tyler Soy, who has hit five goals in his last four games, scoring on 12:58 of the second and 7:10 of the final period, while d-man Jeff Baum grabbed only his second goal of the year at 1:26 of the third.
“The culture we try to instil in the locker room, which is brought in by the leadership group and the guys who have returned, is that winning mindset and mentality. When you do have that in the locker room then it tends to just happen naturally,” praised Keefe.
“Adversity reveals character is one of the statements we have in the locker room and these guys have certainly shown a lot of that in the last three, four weeks through all this stuff.”