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Belfast Giants swat Fife Flyers in seven-goal stunner

Belfast Giants 7 - 0 Fife Flyers (10-3 agg)

By Adam McKendry

A scintillating Belfast Giants performance saw them shutout the Fife Flyers and progress to the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup with a 7-0 quarter-final second leg win at the SSE Arena.

The two sides were locked at 3-3 after a tense first leg, but this was a fantastic offensive performance for Adam Keefe’s side, who were backed by a 30-save performance for Jackson Whistle in nets.

It was Great Britain netminder Whistle who played the full 60 for the hosts, while everyday backstop Andy Iles was in the other goal.

The Giants got off to a flyer, Blair Riley’s breakaway pass cross-ice setting Steve Saviano in on Iles, and the forward made no mistake with his precise shot from the left face-off shot at 5:07.

Whistle was also in action, although he was blanking Fife as a fantastic double save saw him deny Russ Moyer, and David Rutherford nearly made it two at the other end, rattling a wrister off the bar.

Instead, Brendan Connolly made it two at 11:09. After Belfast killed off his penalty, Connolly burst out of the box and received the flipped pass over the top by Matt Towe and roofed the puck past Iles.

Seconds later it could have been three, only this time Iles redeemed himself, flinging himself across the crease to tip a Colin Shields shot onto the frame of the cage having been dragged out of position.

Neither side could find the net for the rest of the period, but Belfast soon had their third at 24:20 on the powerplay, David Rutherford taking the puck behind the net and centring it back into the slot for Riley to stab home.

The visitors then had their first real spell of dominance, peppering a resilient Whistle in the home cage, however they couldn’t break through, and at the other end Riley forced Iles to tip another effort onto the frame.

But the Giants’ superior play continued to impress and they found a fourth at 34:53, John Kurtz finding Spiro Goulakos in the offensive zone, and he dragged Iles out of position before passing to Jonathan Ferland, who tapped into the empty cage.

Both sides had chances before the end of the period, Fife going close first as Ian Young hit the post having been set in by Carlo Finnucci, while Iles again pulled off a great stop to deny Darcy Murphy at the crease.

However the American netminder could do nothing to deny the Giants their fifth shorthanded at 43:59, the Flyers sloppy in clearing their own zone, Saviano stealing in on the puck and pulling it back for Shields to put it in.

At 48:33 they made it six on the powerplay, Rutherford taking it to the left face-off spot and wristing it high past Iles, forcing Fife into the netminder change, bringing back-up Jordan Marr on for Iles.

The young Scot didn’t fare much better as Belfast added their eighth at 52:43, again on the powerplay, Rutherford again involved as he took it behind the net and pulled it back for Darcy Murphy, who finished excellently backhanded.

The Giants even had chances to add more, with local skater Adam Robinson denied by Marr, but this was a convincing and dominant win for Belfast, who will meet the Nottingham Panthers in the last four.

Man of the Match: David Rutherford (Belfast Giants)

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