Credit: William Cherry
Cardiff Devils claim the title
The Stena Line Belfast Giants chased a one goal game into the last two minutes of the Premier Sports EIHL Playoff Final, before a pair of late empty net markers from the Cardiff Devils separated the sides.
An historic third title may have evaded Adam Keefe’s side, but the Giants head into the summer, and the offseason, as Premier Sports Elite League and Challenge Cup champions.
A broken Cardiff play in their own zone provided an early scare as Ben Lake intercepted in the slot, but his shot on-the-turn was saved.
A lightning start continued at the other end when Trevor Cox squared a puck across the zone into the path of Cole Sanford at the back post to open the scoring at 1:44. (0-1)
The Giants’ woes were compounded when Jake Coughler doubled Cardiff’s lead on the power play from the left at 6:01 as Slater Doggett sat for tripping. (0-2)
The Giants responded with Stephen Dixon in the box for interference, as Griffin Reinhart’s dish to Scott Conway was lasered past Devils’ goalie Mac Carruth at 8:32. (1-2)
Brendan Mikkelson followed for tripping at 10:28, but the score remained unchanged as Belfast attempted to rally on their second power play.
Cole Sanford’s collision with Tyler Beskorowany on the rush provided anxious moments for the Teal Army inside the last minute of the period. The Giants’ goalie was slow to get up but continued without leaving the ice.
The high tempo of the first period continued as the puck dropped for two. Jeff Baum found himself wide open in the zone in the third minute, but his shot was pushed onto the post by Carruth.
Belfast left it late on a Stephen Dixon delay of game penalty at 25:57, but Tyler Soy’s puck out from behind the net to Ben Lake at Carruth’s right post was hammered home in the dying seconds at 25:57. (2-2)
The Devils put in an intense offensive shift on the power play when Lake sat for tripping at 35:18, but equally intense defending from Belfast saw off the danger.
Cardiff’s offensive press continued back at 5 on 5, and a puck to the edge of the crease, and to the blade of Stephen Dixon handed them the lead again with just over 20 seconds remaining in the period at 39:39 (Assist: Trevor Cox, Mark Richardson). (2-3)
Tyler Soy served a too many men penalty at 41:13, an issue which has troubled the Giants throughout the season, and Brodie Reid swiftly converted Cardiff’s fourth on the power play at 42:13 (Assist: Josh Waller). (2-4)
The Giants found good zone time on a Brendan Mikkelson high sticking penalty at 44:49, but the Devils worked well to box Belfast forwards outside in the zone.
Cardiff’s Cox and Coughler combined back at 5 on 5, calling Beskorowany into back-to-back stops at close quarters.
A quick release rocket from Darcy Murphy was tipped goalward by Tyler Soy at 49:03, bringing Belfast to within a goal on the verge of the final 10 minutes (Second assist: Lewis Hook). (3-4)
A Sam Ruopp effort from the left circle was gloved down by Carruth with just over three minutes remaining as Belfast surged in search of their equaliser.
Then, with 2:20 remaining, Adam Keefe called Beskorowany to the bench in favour of the extra skater before empty net goals from Trevor Cox (58:09) and Josh Lammon (59:19) sealed the Playoff title for the Cardiff Devils. (3-5 / 3-6)
Courtesy of BelfastGiants.com