Leading from the back, Shane Owen and defence come up big despite Belfast Giants loss in Augsburg
AUGSBURG, Ger. -- From a defensive standpoint, the Belfast Giants deservedly walked out of the Curt-Frenzel-Stadion with their heads held high.
There'll be sore bodies tomorrow, what with the 19 shots they blocked during the course of 60 gruelling minutes in Augsburg they laid their bodies on the line to a man, risking everything for the sake of victory.
Ultimately their effort would come up agonisingly short, but that's not to say the short-benched roster didn't produce a remarkable performance in Germany in the pursuit of the win.
That the team, short two defencemen in suspended captain Matt Pelech and the injured Jesse Forsberg, were even in with a shot at winning was testament to their resolve and fight.
Running a 6-for-6 penalty kill - which included two 5-on-3s - the five remaining Giants blue-liners will look back on this game with pride, regardless of the result.
"Defense, forwards, everyone did a great job defensively tonight. It makes my job a lot easier, I was seeing shots the whole way through and they were cleaning up the rebounds. It was great to see," praised netminder Shane Owen.
"We're going to face adversity all season long but we've got to keep battling hard. It shows a lot of character in our team, but we have a lot of heart. I'm really proud of the team."
Owen himself was a large part as to why the scoreline was as low as it was. He'll be tagged for the loss, sure, but he did everything possible to give his team the best chance of coming up with a shock result.
The former Fife goalie pulled 38 saves out of the top drawer, constantly denying an outstanding Panther offense, and it was a testament to how good he was that he was only beaten by a rebound dropping right on the stick of Matt Fraser on the doorstep and a wicked redirect off the stick of Kevin Raine in front of him.
On the shots he could control, however, Owen was outstanding. Coming off the back of letting in six against Liberec, the netminder was lights out in Augsburg, showing excellent vision to turn away everything that came his way.
He'd come in for some criticism in some parts after that defeat on Thursday night - the vast majority of it unwarranted - but this was, without doubt, a performance that silenced any questions.
"I thought he was spectacular. He was a big reason why we were close to taking it to overtime. He certainly gave us a chance," praised head coach Adam Keefe. "I would have liked to have seen us take it the distance for him."
"I was seeing pucks well out there. I was just doing my job. Making saves when I had to," added Owen matter-of-factly.
Despite the defeat, there's far more positives to take away from Augsburg than negatives. There'll be frustration, of course, that the Giants head back to Belfast with no points from their road trip, but that would have been a bonus.
Instead, they've learned some key lessons, mainly about how they can bounce back following a brutal defeat. They know their defence can take care of business at one end of the ice as well, as can their penalty kill.
At the end of the day, they've now played four games in their Champions League debut season and have yet to be embarrassed - had they performed like they did in Augsburg when they faced Bili Tygri Liberec then the result would not have been anywhere near as one-sided.
Adam Keefe's side will instead head into their first domestic game, against Glasgow on Saturday, with no shortage of confidence, knowing that if this is what they can achieve in September, then there's plenty to be excited about for the coming months.
"We don't have anything to hang our heads over. Take this as a learning experience and put the Champions League on the back burner until we play Lulea," insists Owen.
"We have to take things one game at a time now."
Belfast Telegraph Digital