Awada blazes goal trail on Belfast Giants return
Coventry Blaze 2 Belfast Giants 5: Former Belfast Giants captain George Awada turned the clock back last night with a stunning hat-trick to extinguish the threat of Coventry Blaze.
The American’s return to the Odyssey Arena last month, 18 months after retiring from the game, was an exciting story in its own right, but last night he added another chapter to his record-breaking Giants career.
The 143 goals he scored during six seasons as a Giant — four of them as captain — makes him the club’s record goalscorer.
Nobody, including the 36-year-old, could have imagined that he’d eventually add to that tally but that’s what he did last night with the opener coming in the second minute of the game before he went on to add another two in the second period as the Giants defeated the Blaze 5-2.
It was a good way to follow up Saturday night’s 4-2 win in Hull as the lead at the top of the Elite League table was stretched to three points.
It was the fourth treble Awada had scored as a Giant, with the last coming way back in January 2008.
“George came up with big goals and his line played great,” said coach Doug Christiansen.
“Everyone in the room is delighted for George, but we know what he can do.
“On Saturday night in Hull it was Brock McBride’s line that delivered. Against Coventry it was the Derek LeBlanc line, with George Awada and Robert Dowd, that got us the goals and it’s great that we have a couple of lines that are scoring for us.”
Although the Giants were 4-0 up before Coventry managed to register on the scoreboard, it was a long way from being an easy victory.
Indeed Blaze had out-shot Christiansen’s men in the opening period, 14 shots to 12, and that is something which rarely happens to the Giants. Still, it’s what teams do with their shots that really matters and three times in that opening period the Giants found the net.
The first, from Awada, after 100 seconds gave the Giants an early springboard and with the game still only three-and-a-half minutes old the advantage was doubled.
Awada was involved in the move, along with Dowd, as Ryan Crane fired the puck past Peter Hirsch to take his tally for the season to five.
As the clock ticked towards the end of the first period Mark Garside stopped it with 34 seconds to go as he netted on the powerplay to make it 3-0 to put the Giants very much in the driving seat.
They only had to wait 57 seconds of the second period before the next goal arrived, with Awada again on the mark.
This time Tom Dignard and Benoit Doucet created the opportunity and Awada finished.
Coventry’s Slovenian hitman Matic Kralj then gave his team a foothold in the game as he struck twice inside just over eight minutes to give Blaze at least a glimmer of hope.
He scored in the third minute of the second period and then on a powerplay just after the midway point of the game as Blaze threatened to make a fist of things.
Their hopes were dashed, however, as Awada completed his remarkable hat-trick two minutes from the end of the second period.
The Giants retreated into the defensive zone in the final 20 minutes, restricting Coventry to just eight shots in the third period to record a sixth successive away win and the 10th in all so far this term.