Giants celebrate return in style to see off Stars

It had been 573 days since the Belfast Giants had last stepped on SSE Arena ice when they faced-off against the Dundee Stars in the home opener on Friday night.

Belfast Giants' goalscorer last night Lewis Hook battles off the Dundee Stars' Kris Inglis and Alexandre Ranger during Friday night's EIHL Challenge Cup game at the SSE Arena, Belfast. Picture: William Cherry/Presseye

Buoyed by having already notched up two wins on the road in the Challenge Cup, including a 6-3 win over the Stars last weekend, Adam Keefe’s Giants were eager to give their enthusiastic fans something to shout for.

And the Giants fans only had to wait just over four minutes for the opening goal in the game.

The goal came courtesy of a powerplay goal from J J Piccinich when he found the back of the Stars goal at 4.15 with assists from Scott Conway and David Goodwin.

There then came back to back powerplay opportunities for the Giants, but despite pressure in front of the Dundee goal Belfast were unable to punish the Stars.

The Giants second goal came in open play at 17.38 when Jordan Boucher found his teammate Lewis Hook who made sure to put the puck in the back of the net.

Both sides finished the period with a player in the penalty box.

Boucher having picked up a roughing penalty for the Giants and Dundee’s Finnish defenceman Markus Kankaanpera for cross-checking.

Belfast Giants' Jordan Boucher with Dundee Stars' Kyle Haas during Friday night's EIHL Challenge Cup game at the SSE Arena, Belfast. Picture: William Cherry/Presseye

There was to be no further scoring in the middle period.

Both goalies had their goals peppered but none of the shots were to count.

Dundee’s Kyle Haas had his slapped shot blocked by Giant’s goalie Tyler Beskorowany.

Meanwhile Piccinich, Darcy Murphy and Jeff Baum all had chances for the Giants but their shots were either wide or gloved by Dundee’s netminder Adam Morrison.

Belfast Giants' David Goodwin fires a shot during Friday night's EIHL Challenge Cup game against the Dundee Stars at the SSE Arena, Belfast. Picture: William Cherry/Presseye

No one could fault the work ethos of both sides in the final period, which also remained scoreless.

The Giants had their opportunities to get a third with both Griffin Reinhart and Piccinich being denied by Morrison.

While Dundee’s Dillon Lawrence slammed the puck towards the Giant’s goal only to be denied by Beskorowany.

The Stars could easily have pulled a goal back while on powerplay with Giant’s Mark Cooper in the sin bin, only this time to be denied by the post.

Belfast Giants' Darcy Murphy with Dundee Stars' Adam Morrison during Friday night's EIHL Challenge Cup game at the SSE Arena, Belfast. Picture: William Cherry/Presseye

In the dying seconds of the period temperatures boiled over when both Boucher for the Giants and Haas for the Stars where sent to their respective lockerooms for roughing at 59.39.

Giants goaltender Tyler Beskorowany was named player of the game, recording a shutout in his first home outing of the season.

Speaking after the game Giants’ head coach Adam Keefe said he had been pleased with his team’s performance.

“I would have liked to have seen us get that third goal and close down the game. In the first period we pushed really hard for that third but we came up a little short.

“Dundee’s goalie played really well. He stood tall. We also had to deal with some unlucky bounces of the puck behind their goal.

“We maybe pushed a little to hard to try and get that third and that led us to run out of some steam at the end of the last ten minutes of the second period.

“Full credit to the guys for closing down the game in the third period and making simple plays to maintain our lead.

Keefe added: “But in the end of the day it’s about winning a hockey game and that’s what we did tonight. In the third period we closed the game down and that’s another big positive to take from the game.”

The Giants are back on the road for their next match on Sunday, which is again against the Dundee Stars, face-off is at 5pm.