Focus turns to league defence as Giants out of Cup

The Belfast Giants’ defence of the Challenge Cup has ended in misery after they were knocked out of the tournament by the Cardiff Devils, who shut them out in both legs of their quarter-final clash.

Head coach Adam Keefe’s side failed to get on the scoresheet in the first leg game in Belfast last week, but that narrow 1-0 defeat left it all still to play for in the return leg in Wales.

But Wednesday night’s game at the Viola Arena in Cardiff saw lack of fire-power again become a concern for the Giants.

Goals from Stephen Dixon and Sam Duggan put Cardiff in the driving seat in the opening period, before they really took control in the second.

Stephen Dixon celebrates scoring for the Cardiff Devils against the Belfast Giants. Credit: Cardiff Devils

More goals from Joey Martin and Josh Batch gave them a commanding lead, while tempers also started to fray.

A hit from behind on Giants defenceman Paul Swindlehurst by Dixon saw sparks between the Devils player and the Giants’ Bobby Farnham.

But it was Giants captain Matt Pelech who again ended up dropping the gloves with the Devils’ Mark Louis – after their fight in the first leg game back in Belfast.

Devils player Mark Louis and Giants captain Matt Pelech dropped the gloves. Credit: Cardiff Devils

In the third period, the travelling side had just left themselves with too steep a mountain to climb and they still could not find away past Ben Bowns in the Cardiff net.

Despite the one-sided scoreline – 4-0 to the Devils on the night and 5-0 on aggregate – it could have been worse for the Giants, save for the efforts of netminder Shane Owen.

However, Keefe was frank in his post-game assessment, admitting it was "a real low moment" for his side.

Now, the team will have to hope that being knocked out of the tournament they won for the last two seasons in a row can ignite something to spur them on in their league title defence.

And they will not have to wait long for a chance to make amends.

Devils player Stephen Dixon and Giants player Bobby Farnham have words. Credit: Cardiff Devils

The Giants take on the Devils again, this time in an Elite League clash, at home in Belfast on Saturday – their last game at the SSE Arena before Christmas.

In the sides’ two previous league encounters this season, both in Cardiff, the Giants have taken the wins.