Belfast Telegraph

Owen stands tall as Belfast Giants grind out victory to douse Flames

Belfast Giants 2-1 Guildford Flames

Belfast Giants winger Patryk Wronka skates away from Guildford Flames defenceman Steve Lee (William Cherry/Presseye)
Belfast Giants winger Patryk Wronka skates away from Guildford Flames defenceman Steve Lee (William Cherry/Presseye)
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

The Belfast Giants' defence continues to do everything as advertised as they limited the Guildford Flames in a gritty 2-1 win at the SSE Arena.

The offensively-minded Flames were restricted to periphery shots all night on Giants netminder Shane Owen, who was once again exceptional in turning away 26 shots in the victory.

It's the fifth time in their opening seven games of the domestic campaign that the Giants have limited their opponents to two or less goals as their watertight rearguard continues to shine to start the season.

At the other end, Curtis Hamilton grabbed his team-leading seventh goal of the season to open the night, while Ben Lake opened his account in the Elite League with his third of the season in all competitions with the game-winner.

"Any time you get two points you'll be happy with the result," said Lake, who was named man of the match.

"Credit to them, they came in and played a really hard game. If we'd buried a few more of our chances in the first then we could have put the game to bed a bit earlier.

"Credit to the guys in our room. We found the way to get the two points in the end."

With the win, the Giants go 2-0-1 in the league, maintaining their league-leading win percentage at this early stage of the campaign, and into tied-fourth in the standings.

Once again it was the Belfast defence that was to the fore, running an exceptional 6-for-7 penalty kill on the night and, in general, keeping quality chances off Owen's net in letting him see just the 27 shots.

"Credit to our killers. These guys have a great powerplay. They shoot it high and they shoot it hard, to be out there blocking shots and for Shane Owen to be making those saves is excellent," said head coach Adam Keefe.

Indeed, the only time he was beaten was 15:20 in the third when Jesse Craige lasered a shot from the blue-line through traffic on the 5-on-3 powerplay that found the twine up high, ironically coming shortly after the same man had a goal ruled out (correctly) for offside.

But the best chance besides that which fell to the visitors saw Ben Davies get a breakaway towards the end of the second period, the Great Britain international skating through the slot, only to be blanked by Owen on the backhand.

That supreme defensive display meant that the offense only had to take one of its opportunities, and they responded with two in the first period which, in the end, was enough to put the game beyond their opponents.

Hamilton was first to strike at 9:09 as the hosts inflicted a double blow after Fullerton's hot start to the game, the winger getting himself to the doorstep where he was able to turn in Brian Ward's pass back in front from behind the net.

That was followed just 50 seconds later by Lake getting off the mark in his league campaign with the game-winner, Patryk Wronka grafting in the corner to earn the puck and send it back out in front for the British international to snap home the shot top shelf.

"I've been a bit snake-bit lately, so it's good to get a goal on the scoresheet tonight," admitted Lake.

"It was a bang-bang play, they turned it over to me in the slot. Good work from Wronks to turn it over in the corner. Good to get the finish."

All of the Giants' main offense came in the first period and Lake nearly had a second when he was hooked on the breakaway to earn a penalty shot, however his strike from the right circle was easily padded away by Fullerton - 27 saves.

They could have put it to bed on a couple of chances late in the third period, Jordan Smotherman setting up Wronka on the odd man rush only for Fullerton to deny him five-hole, while Jordan Rowley made an exceptional double block to prevent Lewis Hook from grabbing an empty netter too.

A hectic finale saw Guildford pepper the Belfast net in search of an equaliser, but ultimately they had left themselves too much to do, and the hosts held on for the two points in regulation.

Concerningly, the powerplay was once again one of the weak points of their night as Belfast repeatedly took penalties while on the man advantage - with three powerplays finishing in such a way - to finish a paltry 0-for-6.

"I thought our first powerplay was good. After that we had a couple of good looks, but I'll take some clips from the first one and show them that's how we should be played," added Keefe.

"We're going to have to go that way until we find the back of the net. It is what it is. It's a work in progress."

The Giants switch back to Challenge Cup duty tomorrow night when they travel to the Dundee Stars (2-2-0) still seeking their first road win of the season (face-off 7pm).

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