It’s still two weeks until Halloween, but Saturday night’s league opener at Ice Arena Wales between the Cardiff Devils and Belfast Giants was an absolute thriller.
At 3-1 down, Adam Keefe’s bold timeout deep in the third period brought his Giants to within a whisker of levelling a game defined by spectacular goaltending from Tyler Beskorowany and Mac Carruth, but the hosts held on to take a 3-2 win, thanks to goals from Brendan Mikkelson, Brodie Reid and Cole Sanford.
The Devils tested Beskorowany twice inside the opening minute, before much-improved zone time and an efficient early power play (Valdix, Hooking, 5:03) saw the Giants settle, and indeed dominate, the first 10 minutes.
However, a Devils power play at 12:35 (Conway, Slashing) shifted the momentum as Brodie Dupont’s cross-zone pass found a Brendan Mikkelson one-timer; beating Beskorowany at 13:36. (1-0)
Tyler Soy came agonisingly close to a quick response with 4:11 left in the period, striking Mac Carruth’s right post before the net was shunted loose by a hail of bodies.
It was Cardiff’s turn to apply pressure as the second period got under way, forcing a spell of frantic defending from Belfast throughout the opening five minutes.
There was temporary reprieve at 25:55 when Ben O’Connor sat for cross-checking, however Beskorowany was called upon to prevent a short-handed breakaway before the sides returned to even strength.
A razor sharp ‘Besko’ was the difference maker for the majority of the second period, as Cardiff’s consistent pressure even-handed and on the power play (Ruopp, Hooking, 30:58) forced a series of clinical saves from the Belfast goaltender.
Belfast finished a slightly more subdued period with 22 shots on goal (to Cardiff’s 20), and the game progressed into the final 20 minutes on a knife edge.
Cam Knight tied it up at 44:50, firing a one timer down the slot which trickled through Carruth’s five hole (Assist: Lewis Hook, 1-1).
However, the Giants spark was short lived. Brodie Reid responded for the hosts just over a minute later, rocketing home off a right circle face off at 45:59 (Assist: Stephen Dixon, 2-1).
Belfast’s woes were compounded at 50:01, when a speculative puck on net by Ben O’Connor from the left of the zone found a Cole Sanford tip at the edge of the crease (3-1).
The Giants kill unit survived a Mark Garside interference penalty at 52:11 and despite another quality shift on the power play at 55:11 (Josh Batch, High Sticking), the score remained unchanged.
Adam Keefe called a time out, icing the extra skater with three minutes remaining; a bold roll of the dice which paid off at 58:07 when Mark Cooper struck, pulling the game to within a goal and guaranteeing a nail-biting finish (Assist: Jordan Boucher, 3-2).
Beskorowany headed for the bench again at the drop, as the Giants poured forward. Mac Carruth, who had been outstanding all evening in the Devils goal, denied Scott Conway with his shoulder (and a little help from the post) in the dying seconds to hand an absolute thriller, and first blood of the season, to the Cardiff Devils.
The Belfast Giants continue their road weekend tomorrow night in Coventry, taking on the Blaze at 5:30pm. This game will be shown LIVE on Premier Sports.
The Giants’ next home game is Sunday 24th October at 4:00pm against the Dundee Stars in Challenge Cup action. Get your tickets HERE!