Sunday, 4 November 2012

Giants Derailed by Autumnal Leebs on the Line

Matt Beleskey has temporarily switched from Ducks to Blaze
A hockey netminder - society's way of finding work for clearly insane people.
No-one knows why people choose to do this.
Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 3 November 2012 at The Skydome
Coventry Blaze 5 Belfast Giants 4 (OT)
Elite League (the top tier of British ice hockey)
Rink #8 on my lifetime list – here because I was in the Midlands for the day and an attempt to see a football match earlier was rained off - a waterlogged pitch at Highgate (and Alvechurch) despite the bright sunshine.  My first Elite League game.
Pre-match preparation
Not a lot!  Coventry are bottom of the table at the moment but there is very little between the teams in their conference.
This match in one sentence
A very entertaining see-saw fixture which saw Coventry come back in the third period from a two-goal deficit before Belfast took the tie to sudden-death four-on-four overtime.
So what?
The two teams meet again today - Blaze will overtake Giants if they can repeat the result. 
The drama unfolds
The first period was somewhat cagey and entertaining at a technical level.  The game seemed less frantic (at this stage) than some of the Premier league encounters I have watched so far.  The sides defended a powerplay each.  Here's a scene-setter clip.  Blaze are in blue.

Blaze then had a goal disallowed (the red light came on) because the net was off its moorings.  The second clip is also from the first period and Blaze are again successfully defending a powerplay after a teensy bit of hooking by Brad Leeb.  0-0 at the end of the first

The next clip has Giants defending a powerplay (for some minor assault or other) and excellent work by Blaze netminder Peter Hirsch.  A goal began to look more likely.

The goal duly arrived at 33m52s from Giant's Noah Clarke.  Good finish.  0-1

Blaze struck back within four minutes (3 minutes and 59 seconds to be precise).  Dustin Cameron the scorer with assists from programme-cover star Matt Beleskey and Shea Guthrie.  Beleskey has signed on-loan from the Anaheim Ducks of the NHL and Blaze fans will be hoping that the NHL player lock-out continues for a while yet.  To quote the programme, "After a debut performance including an impressive fight that instantly won over a packed Skydome ...".  1-1

Within one minute, however (57 seconds for the pedants) Andrew Fournier's shot was beaten out by Hirsch but straight back to him and he reacted well to score.  1-2

His second goal just before the end of the second period was also a clinical finish to give the Giants a two-goal cushion and they looked to be in control of the game.  1-3

The teams played four-on-four for two minutes after some cross-checking misdemeanours but a "too many men" penalty for Giants opened a window of opportunity for Blaze as they would start the final period with 93s of powerplay advantage.  1-3 at the end of the second

Here's their crucial powerplay goal at the start of the third.  The scorer is Brad Leeb.  2-3

The momentum had switched and Blaze were soon level.  Beleskey and Cameron combined to assist the score by Mike Schutte.  3-3

Giants' netminder Stephen Murphy was called upon to make three saves in quick succession before Blaze rattled the goalframe, but the turnround was complete as Blaze converted a powerplay goal.  Brad Leeb's second of the night was assisted by brother Greg with Robbie Sandrock watching from the sinbin for tripping.  4-3

To be fair to Giants, they came straight back themselves to level the match.  With Schutte sitting out 2 mins for tripping, Jeff Mason got the goal with just under nine minutes to go.  4-4

Blaze completed the handover of the initiative to giants as Beleskey was penalised for high sticks, and then gift-wrapped it with a full minute of 5 on 3 as Benn Olson was adjudged to have delayed the game.  Here's the clip.

Superb defence work by Blaze to ensure that we needed overtime, which in this league is four-on-four sudden death.  4-4 at the end of the third

It took two-and--half minutes before this happened to decide the game (after some crowd-pleasing "Put your hands up in the air.." action a few seconds earlier...).  It's the Leebs again, combining in the same order as they had done for the fourth goal.  This one won it.  The ref is right on the spot to make the call.  A great night of sporting action for a £16 ticket.  Final score 5-4

The programme

Something random
Clockwise! (I do love a running joke … see previous ice hockey posts for details of my northern hemisphere net Coriolis force clockwise Zamboni rotation theory which remains intact even if my credibility doesn’t.)

Hopping for Moorfields Update
Nothing to report!
What Next?
More careful scrutiny of weather charts as we enter the season of fixture disruption.

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