They may have ended up on the wrong side of the 3-2 scoreline in their Challenge Cup quarter-final first leg away to the Coventry Blaze, but Belfast Giants winger JJ Piccinich says they should be “super proud” of their efforts under the circumstances.
Already missing two forwards through injury — Ciaran Long and Darcy Murphy — coming into the game at the SkyDome on Wednesday, the Giants lost two more during the clash as Slater Doggett went off injured in the first period and Ben Lake was ejected for kneeing in the second, and, to make matters worse, they lost defenceman Cam Knight for the final period through injury, too.
When the Blaze struck twice 35 seconds apart in the middle frame to go 3-1 up, it looked like things could tailspin out of control for Adam Keefe’s men but, to their credit, they dug deep and not only prevented their hosts from adding to their lead but cut it by one thanks to Piccinich’s second goal of the tie in the third.
“That could definitely be huge. Every goal matters, so we won’t overlook any of them,” said the American, who accounted for both of the Giants’ goals at the SkyDome after also scoring on the powerplay in the second.
“We’re definitely in good spirits after that game. I thought the guys were super resilient and I’m so proud of the group after a game like that where we were so short-handed.
“The good news is we have another leg of this thing to make good on it. Even though we are down (on the scoreboard) right now, which is never good, I’m super proud of the guys in there and we’ll rally around that.
“It was freezing, we were down bodies, we were tired, it was Wednesday, away in Coventry — we had every reason to lay out and die. But that’s when we decided not to. In our locker room we were super positive and we chose not to lay out and die, and that’s a testament to our group.”
The Giants are set to find out today if Lake will face any added disciplinary action from the Elite League’s Department of Player Safety for his knee on Blaze forward Mathew Thompson.