The Stena Line Belfast Giants won their opening game of the weekend, 7-4 against the Nottingham Panthers to move into second place in the Elite League. A game winning goal from Colin Shields gave the home side the league win at The SSE Arena on Saturday. The Belfast side return to action on Sunday away against the Coventry Blaze.
The Giants started Saturday’s game with Jackson Whistle in net and Ryan Martinelli missing out through injury.
Brandon Benedict opened the scoring as he deflected Jonathan Boxill’s shot into the roof of the Panthers net at 8:27. Jim Vandermeer doubled the home side’s lead 30 seconds later as his neat backhanded finish beat netminder Miika Wiikman at 8:57, assisted by Blair Riley and Chris Higgins.
Brian McGrattan helped his side get themselves back into this game when he netted Nottingham’s first goal at 11:37, assisted by Lachowicz and Farmer.
Alex Foster restored the Giants two goal advantage at 16:44 when he finished off a nice move, assisted by Steve Saviano and Colin Shields.
Jeff Brown pulled another back for the visitors, scoring at 18:19 and assisted by Bettering and Carter, to ensure the Panthers were within one after the opening period.
It was Brown again who got the equaliser for Nottingham when he scored 2:34 into the second period. However Derrick Walser fired Belfast ahead once more at 3:09, assisted by Blair Riley and Michael Quesnele.
Dan Spang’s goal at 31:24, assisted by Moran and Lachowicz, brought the Panthers back to level terms after two periods of play.
The third period was end-to-end with both netminders being kept busy throughout. Blair Riley and Colin Shields combined well at 51:20 for Shields to score the Giants fifth of the night and the all important go-ahead goal.
Blair Riley then turned from provider to scorer at 55:00 when he increased the home side’s advantage to 6-4. The Panthers took a gamble by pulling their netminder for the final few minutes only for Chris Higgins to bust from the Giants zone and send the puck into the empty net.
The Giants are back in action on Sunday against the Coventry Blaze before returning to Belfast for three home games before Christmas – vs Manchester in the Challenge Cup Quarter Final on Tuesday and vs Edinburgh on Thursday & Friday.
Stena Line Belfast Giants 7-4 Nottingham Panthers
Giants Man of the Match
#25 Blair Riley