Rav Sawada makes an instant impact for Belfast Giants
Dundee Stars 1 - Belfast Giants 4
Belfast Giants fans have a new hero – and an instant one at that.
Ray Sawada wasted no time in making an impression on his Giants debut, scoring a first period goal as Steven Thornton's team made a perfect start to their defence of the Elite League title.
Former NHL player Sawada only stepped off a plane in Dublin airport at 5.30am on Thursday, yet was on the ice with his new team mates just a few hours later.
That was followed by an early-morning ferry across the Irish Sea yesterday morning followed by a three and a half hour journey by road to Dundee.
That heavy travel schedule, plus the resulting jeg lag, didn't seem to affect him though as Sawada struck the first goal of his Giants career just before the end of the first period.
And Mike Kompon – who along with Sawada and Mark McCutcheon is one of just three new additons to last season's title-winning squad – also provided a debut assist as the Giants started their three-game road trip to Scotland with a 4-1 win over the Dundee Stars.
The old guard did their bit too, with Craig Peacock, Darryl Lloyd and Evan Cheverie netting the third in a straightforward win for the Giants.
McCutcheon missed the opportunity to make it a hat-trick of goals from the new boys as he was ruled out through injury, but while Thornton still had nine forwards available he was a man light in defence as Jeff Mason remained in Belfast with his wife due to give birth any day.
Sawada's first significant moment of the game was after five minutes when he was sent to the penalty box for interference, giving Dundee their first powerplay of the night – which the Giants managed to see off successfully.
The next Giant into the box was Adam Keefe, after he had renewed his rivalry with Brad Plumpton, who he fought with on numerous occasions when the Dundee captain was with the Cardiff Devils.
The incident earned Keefe a lenghy rest as he was handed a two-minute penalty for instigating and five for fighting, as well as a 10-minute misconduct.
It was with Chris Blight off the ice for charging that the Giants took the lead with Sawada's powerplay goal.
Calvin Elfring had sent the puck forward to Peacock and he found Sawada, who struck the first goal of the Elite League season with 18:24 on the clock.
Less than five minutes of match time elapsed before the Giants struck again, this time with Peacock netting – again on the powerplay.
Kompon created the opportunity and Peacock fired the puck beyond the reach of Dundee goaltender Marc Cheverie at 23:03.
The Giants then began to turn the screw as they made it 3-0 two and a half minutes later.
Evan Cheverie provided the pass and Lloyd was on hand to tap the puck home.
Those two goals in quick succession prompted Dundee coach Jeff Hutchins to call a time out in an attempt to rally his shocked troops.
Whatever he said had some sort of impact as, 10 minutes later, the Stars got themselves back into the game.
Sam McCloskey and John Mitchell moved the puck and when they found Plumpton he picked his spot and sent the puck past Stephen Murphy in the Giants goal.
Lloyd was then just inches away from getting his second of the night early in the third period when he again collected a pass from Evan Cheverie, only to be thwarted by the crossbar.
The Giants were not to be denied a fourth goal though, even if they had to wait until a couple of seconds before the end of the game for it to come.
Dundee pulled their goaltender and, with only two seconds left on the clock, Evan Cheverie slid the puck into the empty net to complete a comprehensive opening win for the Giants.