A home opener is a special occasion in any regular season. A home opener after 18 long months of pandemic shutdown? It’s hard to find the words.
The Belfast Giants came home on Friday night, emerging victorious over Omar Pacha’s Dundee Stars. A boisterous first period was all the Giants needed offensively, with goals from Lewis Hook and JJ Piccinich combining with a Tyler Beskorowany shutout to keep their unbeaten record in the Challenge Cup intact.
With an electrified SSE Arena behind them, the Belfast Giants poured forward from the drop. David Goodwin’s relentless forecheck was once again on display, a key disruptor in the Dundee zone.
Continuing their recent form, the Giants power play unit was similarly ruthless. A Dillon Lawrence Tripping call at 3:45 was promptly turned into a JJ Piccinich goal after an efficient cycle provided multiple chances up close. The roar from the Teal Army for the first home goal of the 21-22 season was just about as spectacular as the finish. (4:16, assisted by Scott Conway, 1-0)
The Dundee Stars appeared to settle mid period, getting their first looks on goal. However, Tyler Beskorowany stood tall in the Belfast crease. The visitors weathered back-to-back penalty kills, despite Adam Morrison facing a barrage of cannons from Piccinich and Boucher.
A stunning cross-zone pass from Jordan Boucher set up Lewis Hook for the Giants second at 17:38. Hook made no mistake about his second goal of the season, roofing it past Morrison from the mid-slot. (2-0)
Belfast’s penalty kill unit had to weather a Stars 5 on 3 power play early in the middle stanza, and as the visitors began to establish themselves offensively throughout the opening 10 minutes, and indeed the period, Tyler Beskorowany was called upon for a string of confident stops.
A much milder period was to follow, with the sense of urgency placed firmly on the shoulders of Dundee who still trailed by 2.
Connor Sills was called for cross checking at 39:52, handing Belfast 1:52 of power play heading into the final 20 minutes.
Belfast came close to adding a third with 14:25 left in the game. After a sound penalty kill without key component Kevin Raine who sat for Interference at 43:14, Adam Morrison was faced with three Teal jerseys breaking down the slot. The Stars netminder, who had looked solid since the opening flurry of goals, was a match for the threat.
Morrison was once again the standout with 5 minutes left in the game. A Belfast odd man rush originating from their own zone found JJ Piccinich denied at the back door by a stunning pad save.
Dundee rang the iron on a late power play as Mark Cooper headed to the box for holding at 55:43. But it was Kyle Haas who caused the late drama, tangling with Griffin Reinhart in the Stars zone. Jordan Boucher joined the fray and with 21 seconds left, Omar Pacha pulled his goaltender a man short.
David Goodwin almost iced the game with the yawning cage, but it mattered very little as Belfast held on to secure their third straight win.
At the other end, Giants goaltender Tyler Beskorowany was named Player of the Game, recording a shutout in his first home outing of the season.