Belfast Telegraph

Raine at the double as Giants grind out road win for four-point weekend over Blaze

Coventry Blaze 3-6 Belfast Giants

Belfast Giants defenceman Kevin Raine
Belfast Giants defenceman Kevin Raine
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

COVENTRY, Eng -- The Belfast Giants continue to get scoring from unusual sources, but they won't mind as they keep racking up the wins.

Kevin Raine took his season tally to three with two goals in the Giants' 6-3 win at the Coventry Blaze, while Paul Swindlehurst and Patrick Mullen both notched their first goals of the season in the win.

It's been a particular purple patch for Raine, however, the defenceman scoring three times in as many games to equal his season-high tally in his professional career through just 23 games this season.

His two goals were strikingly similar too in a bizarrely high-scoring first period - which saw the sides share seven goals - as he put them ahead with a ripper from the point at 2:57, before firing in another at 14:02.

"It's pretty funny, because if you look at my recent years it's usually happened all at once and it usually comes at the end of the season, which is pretty consistent," laughs Raine.

"Nothing in my game has changed, so any bounce I haven't been getting at any other time is coming all at once. It's nice. It's lucky. It's fun."

Belfast also got scoring from their reliable sources, Ben Lake grabbing his second in as many nights against his old side and Jordan Smotherman notching his ninth of the campaign as they improve to 8-1-2 in the Elite League and go top of the standings.

After conceding three in the first period alone, netminder Shane Owen rallied for a 33-save display at the SkyDome as the Giants made it six wins in a row and tallied their third consecutive road victory after starting the season 0-for-8 outside of Belfast.

The penalty kill was once again exceptional at 7-for-7, while Belfast once again defended a third period lead to take the two points, their final frame onslaught seeing Blaze netminder Jamie Phillips withdrawn after letting in the sixth goal, making 25 saves.

"We're playing good hockey now. It's good when you're putting pucks in the net," said man of the match Brian Ward.

"We had that stretch where we were outplaying teams but we couldn't score goals, but now they're starting to come and we're starting to get on a roll.

"It's nice. It feels good, especially doing it on the road."

Raine's opener had come after just 2:57, but the Blaze had responded quickly, a misplay down the boards letting them in for their leveller at 6:12, David Broll skating in and finishing high past Owen, and the same man put the hosts ahead at 8:15 when he tipped in a Matt Pohlkamp pass.

Having seen his defensive partner already hammer one in, Swindlehurst got in on the action when he thundered home at 10:41 off Ward's face-off to tie it up at 2-2.

"I turned round, heard a 'tink' and he was celebrating, so I didn't see it!" laughed Ward.

The Giants then impressively killed off a holding minor to Swindlehurst before Raine smashed in his second at 13:33 to make it 3-2, in rather similar fashion to his first.

But that lead would last just 29 seconds, Matt Pohlkamp this time turning scorer at 14:02 to make it 3-3, the winger banking his pass to the crease off the skate of Raine and past an unfortunate Owen.

After seeing off an interference call to Curtis Leonard, the Giants did ensure they would lead at the first intermission, however, Ben Lake scoring his second in as many nights at 18:52 when he poked in Patryk Wronka's rebound to make it 4-3.

Having shared seven goals in the first period, it was perhaps fate that the two sides would be scoreless in the second as both goaltenders finally found their groove.

Phillips was the first to be called into action when defensive zone turnovers saw Ward and Bobby Farnham both have chances, only to be denied by the backstop.

At the other end, Owen was wise to deny Ross Venus when he got a tip on Justin Hache's blue-line shot before getting his body behind a Luke Ferrara snapshot from the mid-slot.

It was a period beset by penalties too, Janne Laakkonen (delay of game) and Hache (slashing) heading off for the Blaze and Ben Lake (charging) and Swindlehurst (high sticking) again heading to the box.

And having killed off another penalty early in the third to Farnham, after he took a tripping call, the Giants struck twice in just over two minutes to ensure they'd head home with the points.

"It just shows we're evolving as a team. We're learning from our mistakes," says Ward of being able to close the game out in the third.

"We need to be a third period team if we want to win games and be a championship team. We're learning how to play in certain situations. That's key to success."

The first came at 7:02 of the final frame on the powerplay - which was 1-for-3 in only 1:25 on the night - when Charles Corcoran went off for hooking, Mullen wandering between the hashmarks and powering a wrister high over Phillips' shoulder for 5-3.

And just 2:01 after that, Smotherman confirmed the outcome when he stabbed home past Phillips at the crease - ending the netminder's night - to make it 6-3 in favour of the visitors.

Andrew Johnston did have a chance to at least pull one back for the hosts when he earned a penalty shot off Raine, but netminder Owen stayed low to blank him and rubber-stamp the result.

"We played really well tonight. We really brought it," added Raine. "Our forwards are flying, we got four goals from the back end and Owey was exceptional."

The Giants are next in action when they head on the road for a double-header against the Nottingham Panthers (5-7-1, 11pts) at the Motorpoint Arena, starting on Saturday.

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