MANCHESTER STORM 1 – 2 BELFAST GIANTS
After nine rounds of penalties shots it saw the Belfast Giants getting the better of the Manchester Storm in a shootout, with Mike Radja netting the decisive shot for the Northern Ireland outfit to claim a 2-1 win.
Manchester started like a bull in a China shop to begin with, as they nearly went ahead in the opening thirty seconds of the match when a shot on the Belfast nets seemed to catch Stephen Murphy by surprise and resulted with him stumbling backwards and taking the goals off.
Storm put the Belfast defence under severe pressure and had them struggling to contain the Altrincham side for a lot of the first period. Murphy made a couple of stops and saw his efforts thwart the home side come to an end after Latvian Defenseman Ricards Birzinsh found twine to see the home side one up.
Belfast were lucky not to be further behind as they were battered in the first period and had to weather the proverbial Storm (pardon the pun). Stephen Murphy returned to the rink where he called home back in 2009 with the Manchester Phoenix, and it saw him forced into making some important stops for the Giants.
Despite out shooting and arguably putting on their best first period display of the season, the Storm just couldn’t find the elusive second goal that their play truly deserved.
Typically the Giants tied things up early on in the second frame while on the powerplay, as at 20:41 Colin Shields wrist shot flew in after work by Mitch Ganzak and Brandon Benedict saw them assisting Shields on the tying goal.
Belfast managed to force their way back into the game and saw Zane Kalemba in the Manchester goals not being tested more and being forced into making a couple of good saves to keep it level.
In the third and both sides looked to be tiring after a tough weekend and made the game a bit more open and always looking like heading to an overtime period.
With the game heading to an extra period, it saw Manchester with a great opportunity to take the points late on, but once more Murphy came up big for the Giants to deny them.
Penalties was needed to determine a winner in this game and with neither side able to find the net in the first eight penalty shots, we headed to sudden death penalties. Most of the Manchester penalties were either tame shots or the players trying to be too clever for their good and had them unable to get a shot off.
Belfast found it it hard to come by in beating Zane Kalemba, but eventually something had to give with no sides netting a goal. So after Matt Caria failed to even have register a shot after Murphy poked it away, it saw Mike Radja for the Giants step up and become the hero of the hour for his team and scored past the netminder for the game winner.
It was case of the Storm not capitalising on their domination in the first, plus trying the trick goalie instead of registering a proper penalty cost the hosts a possible victory. Manchester will look to bounce back next weekend with games against Fife on the road and at home to Cardiff next Sunday.