Giants rally to win shoot-out
Belfast Giants’ head coach Adam Keefe had demanded that his team improve on their discipline after the first two Champions Hockey League (CHL) games.
At the end of last Sunday’s nerve racking shoot-out victory against Oceláři Třinec at the SSE Arena Keefe was full of praise for his squad who had secured their first point and win in the CHL campaign.
Last Friday, HC Davos had continued their undefeated run in this year’s CHL with a 5-1 victory over the Giants in Switzerland in last Friday’s encounter in Switzerland.
A four-goal blitz from the hosts in the opening period triggered a switch in goal for Adam Keefe, as Peyton Jones took over from Jackson Whistle, before Ciaran Long found the Giants’ only goal midway through the second period.
Sunday’s game saw the Giants take the lead at 9.08 when Steve Owre found Will Cullen who fired a one-timer through traffic from the right side of the blue line.
The Giants’ doubled their thanks to an elusive powerplay goal at 29.45.
With Petr Vrana in the box for high sticking, the Giants’ power play unit found their spark. Moving the puck well inside the blue line, Chad Butcher fed Scott Conway who made no mistake in finding the back of the net.
In the final period Třinec took the game to the Giants. They found their opener at even strength when Petr Vrana roofed an impressive shot past Jones from the left circle at 50.10.
The visitors found an equaliser at 57.39 when Tomas Marcinko finally found a way past Jones.
Things went from bad to worse for Belfast as Sam Ruopp took a five plus game for checking to the head in the dying moments, but Keefe’s side held on for overtime.
With nothing separating the two sides in overtime, despite the Giants having to kill a penalty for much of the time.
Jones was the hero for Belfast after five rounds of sudden death, turning way Libor Hudacek’s effort shortly after Mark Cooper had tucked his shot home to clinch the side’s first win of the year in the CHL.
Goaltender Jones was the Giants’ man of the match both in Davos and at the SSE.
Reflecting on the win against Třinec, he said: “Tonight was awesome. The team played great and the fans made the building fun to play in front of.
“Every day I try to give the boys a chance to win. I do everything that I can to ensure we win. Luckily tonight that was the end result and we are all pleased with that.”
Jones continued that he was well aware that his teammates were laying their bodies on the line against Třinec and blocking the puck as much as possible.
He said: “The boys who are in front of me are awesome. They put their bodies on the line to block pucks, Rainer, Coops, Bast, Ruopper, all the guys they stepped up.
“They helped to make my life a little easier when they block those pucks. Having just spoken to them in the lockeroom after the game there are a lot of banged up bodies in there, but that’s part of the game. It also shows that the guys want to win.”
Reflecting on the crucial shoot-out save Jones said: “I tried not to react. My focus was on getting the win. I wanted to make the save to get the win.
“For me its about staying in the moment and taking one second at a time. I don’t think about anything, I just read and react.”
It was noted that Jones had bagged the puck at the end of the game, he said: “I have it. It’s a big win for our team, for myself and the fans. We will have fun tonight celebrating but we will be back to work.”
Forward Scott Conway believes that the Belfast fans helped to lift them in the CHL tournament.
He said: “You’re playing against the best teams in Europe and they’re not gonna let off. All I can say is we gave it our all out there today and we came out with a win there.
He added: “You can’t beat our fanbase were pretty loud tonight and gave us energy.”
Conway was happy his team could secure the win for the fans.
He said: “That’s what we’re aiming to do. We still have two games to play and we need to come out with two wins.”
Petr Vrána of Třinec was disappointed that his side had come up short during their trip to Northern Ireland.
“We gave it all we had left, it just wasn’t good enough. We came back in the game. Great for us, great character to come back into game.
“It was tough to lose in the shoot-out. With all due respect to Belfast, our game wasn’t good.”
The Giants return to domestic competition this coming weekend when they begin their defence of the Challenge Cup.
Saturday sees the Fife Flyers travel across to face the Giants.
On Sunday the Giants travel to Kirkcaldy for the reverse fixture.