photos Helen Brabon

The Stena Line Belfast Giants have it all to play for in the Challenge Cup Semi-Final following Sunday’s 1st Leg – which the Cardiff Devils won 5-3 in Wales. The 2nd Leg takes place in Belfast at The SSE Arena on Tuesday 23rd February, face-off 7pm, as the Giants seek to overturn a two goal deficit and advance to the Final on Sunday 6th March in Sheffield.

The Giants began the Semi-Final missing both Chris Higgins and Matt Nickerson through injury with new signing Jim Vandermeer making his debut against SG Cortina of Italy onFriday 12th and Saturday 13th February in Belfast.
Trevor Hendrikx opened the scoring at 8:08 as his shot from the blueline found its way into the Giants net. At 13:14, James Desmarais equalised for the visitors, his 21st goal of the season, assisted by David Rutherford and Mike Radja.

Once again it was the Devils who took the lead, this time Ryan Russell was on target for the hosts at 22:06. However, David Rutherford made it all square with a fine shot past Ben Bowns in the Cardiff net at 24:47.

Into the third period and the home side scored soon after the puck dropped with Doucet finding the net for the 33rd time this season 20 seconds into the final period. Just over two minutes later at the Devils extended their lead as Leigh Salters made it 4-2 to the hosts.

Kris Beech pulled one back for the Giants, closing the gap to one, as he deflected home a Derrick Walser shot at 44:24. But Joey Haddad netted at 46:45 to give the Devils, and Challenge Cup holders, a two-goal advantage going into the 2nd Leg on 23rd February in Belfast.

Final Score:
Cardiff Devils 5-3 Stena Line Belfast Giants

Giants Man of the Match:
#79 James Desmarais