Giants win over Flames in packed-out home arena

John Kurtz scored twice for the Giants in their home win over the Flames. Credit: Presseye

The Belfast Giants took a close-run 5-4 win over the Guildford Flames in front of a sold-out home crowd on Friday night.

First, the evening started with a local Giants legend performing the ceremonial puck-drop.

Belfast's own Mark 'The Mo-Train' Morrison took to the ice for the occasion.

Former Belfast Giants player Mark Morrison returned to the ice at the start of the game. Credit: Presseye

Then, once the action got underway, the Giants wasted little time firing themselves into the lead.

The opening goal came from Brendan Connolly after just 90 seconds.

And, barely two minutes later, Connolly was back with a powerplay effort that saw the hosts go 2-0 up over the visiting Flames.

There was penalty trouble for the Giants though, when Spiro Goulakos took a 10-minute misconduct for abuse of officials – closely followed by Ryan Martinelli with a 2+2 for roughing.

Guildford capitalised with a powerplay goal of their own from Calle Akered, getting them off and running when he blasted the puck through the Giants defence and past Jackson Whistle in nets.

There were two goals from Brendan Connolly for the Giants. Credit: Presseye

At the other end, sterling work from Flames netminder Chris Carrozzi repeatedly denied the Giants as they piled on the pressure.

The visitors found an equaliser, again on the powerplay and this time from Jesse Craige to make it 2-2 with over eight minutes still to go in the first period.

However, the Giants put themselves back in front when Steve Saviano had his shot saved – only for John Kurtz to bang in the rebound while the side were shorthanded.

It was Kurtz who managed to get the puck over the line for the Giants’ fourth goal of the night, with that powerplay effort giving the hosts the 4-2 lead going into the first break.

The Giants celebrate another goal from John Kurtz. Credit: Presseye

The second period proved tougher for the Giants and they will want back the sole goal of that middle 20 minutes of action.

The Flames were able to cut the deficit back down to just one goal when Mikael Lidhammar was given too much space and time – scoring shorthanded and unassisted after less than five minutes.

But the Giants took their reduced lead into the final period which also proved a closer run affair than they would have liked.

Blair Riley in action for the Giants against the Flames. Credit: Presseye

More penalty trouble saw Guildford again capitalise and John Dunbar put his side level at 4-4 while the Giants were two men down, with Goulakos and Mark Garside both sitting for two minutes.

However, a powerplay goal for the Giants from Darcy Murphy - while the Flames’ Kevin Phillips sat for boarding – restored their narrow lead.

Despite a host of late chances for the Giants, all denied by Carrozzi before he was pulled for the extra skater, that Murphy goal was to prove the game winner and the hosts took the 5-4 win.

  • WATCH: John Kurtz on penalties, getting the win, and heading to Sheffield

Speaking after the game, Man of the Match John Kurtz said he was happy with the result - but admitted that the Giants were causing problems for themselves by taking too many penalties.

"I think we kinda let our foot off the gas and didn't play a full 60 minutes tonight," he said.

"Luckily, we were able to pull it off in the end, but going forward, I think we need to play a more complete game."

He added: "We're shooting ourselves in the foot taking penalties we don't necessarily need to take. It just wears on our bench, wear on our penalty killers and puts everyone back on their heels.

"Once we tighten that up, it should help our game a lot."

Head coach Adam Keefe added that he was expecting to face "the best Sheffield team yet" in the Giants next game on Sunday.

The Giants have already won out twice over the Steelers this season - leaving their opponents bound to be wanting to prove a point.

  • WATCH: Adam Keefe on getting it done against Guildford and facing the toughest test yet in Sheffield