Belfast Giants do the Italian Job on HC Bolzano, but at what cost?
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But the Giant’s first CHL win this campaign came at a huge cost. In the second period forward Elijiah Barriga had to be helped from the ice after sustaining what looked like a significant injury. He didn’t return for the remainder of the game.
Meanwhile, later the same period forward Matt McLeod limped down to the tunnel. He returned to the ice for warm-up at the start of the third, but after a short skate he again returned down the tunnel the dressing room.
Goals from Quinn Preston, a brace from the Giants’ very own Italian international Daniel Tedesco and Kohei Sato completed the scoring on the night.
“I am extremely tonight at that performance,” said Giants’ head coach Adam Keefe after the game against HC Bolzano. “From the drop of the puck I thought that the energy was high. The energy in the building was also great too. There was a great crowd tonight.”
He continued: “The guys new the importance of the Champions game like that, so their energy was high right from the start. That continued right on until the end of the game.”
HC Bolzano head coach Niklas Sundblad, who arrived in Bolzano this summer after previous coaching experience in the DEL and SHL, remarked ahead of the game: “I didn’t know much about Belfast when the draw was made, but we’ve studied them after the last few weeks.”
The HC Bolzano coach added: “The EIHL has been growing and developing over recent years, and the game they play is similar to the North American style.”
Notably, the Giants, played their first home Champions Hockey League fixture of the season on Saturday night, had 6,130 fans. The Giants currently rank as the second-highest average attendance in the competition behind Adler Mannheim of Germany.
Meanwhile, almost 25,000 fans came to Elite League areas during this past weekend, the first with multiple teams playing pre-season games.
A total of 24,697 spectators attended seven games over the two days. Sheffield Steelers' crowd of 9,212 at the Utilita Arena, to see their side beat Nottingham Panthers 4-1, was the biggest of the weekend.
In Scotland, both Fife Flyers and Dundee Stars had almost 2,000 fans each for their rivalry games against each other.
Glasgow Clan, who, like the Stars, set a new franchise record for season ticket sales over the summer, played on the road in Cardiff but will return to Braehead Arena on Friday night against the Giants.
In 2022/23, the Elite League ended the season with its highest average attendance figure on record at over 3,200 per game, and surpassed a million spectators over the season for only the second time ever.
The Giants are back in pre-season action this weekend against the Glasgow Clan in Scotland on Friday (September 15) and at The SSE on Saturday, September 16.