Giants Take One Goal Lead Into Playoff 2nd Leg
â€œThis is our houseâ€ was the motto of the night and the Stena Line Belfast Giants proved it with a 1-0 victory over rivals the Cardiff Devils. In the first leg of the playoff quarter-final, it was Ray Sawada who made the difference between the two teams in the first period. As expected huge hits were dished out by both sidesâ€™ enforcers, but the scoreline remained tight with Carsen Chubak adding another to his clean sheets this season.
The home team came out to a flying start and may have been disappointed to only go into the first intermission with one goal ahead. Quickly into play, Jeff Mason appeared to have the puck on a string when he danced through the Cardiff defence but visiting netminder Ben Bowns denied the ensuing shot. Among the Giantsâ€™ 14 shots on target, Ray Sawada picked up on a fine pass from Evan Cheverie to break the deadlock at 16:17. The Giants continued to push for the remainder of the period but Ben Bowns was up to the challenge and the score remained 1-0 despite a huge disparity between the teamsâ€™ shots (14 vs. 1).
Where the first twenty minutes were all Giants, the middle period was all Cardiff. Despite having only one shot on target in the first period, the visitors turned the game around and matched the Giantsâ€™ initial performance. The Devils were strong on their two powerplays but a stellar defensive unit and Carsen Chubak combined to deny them time and time again.
Things got heated in the final period with Kevin Westgarth pulling out a huge hit on Trevor Hendrikx to knock him off his feet. Both teams fought bravely throughout the twenty minutes with chances coming at either end, and fans in Belfast could be forgiven for early celebrations of a few close attempts.
Despite coach Steve Thornton calling a time- out with minutes running out on the clock, the home teamâ€™s final efforts couldnâ€™t extend on their one-goal lead. The Giants will look to capitalise on their opportunities in round 2 in Cardiff on Sunday evening.
Final score: Stena Line Belfast Giants 1-0 Cardiff Devils
Diageo NI Man of the Match: #15 Kevin Westgarth