The 133 penalty minutes dished out between Manchester and Belfast were somewhat befitting for the occasion at the Shelter, a night dedicated to the Armed Forces. Although, the on ice warfare was largely contained to the 1st period with an absurd 101 PIM’s logged, when on-ice officials struggled to maintain control of mounting frustrations on both team benches.
Manchester Storm vs Belfast Giants (27/10/18)
As expected alterations were made to the roster midweek with former Sheffield, Fife and Glasgow man Brendan Brooks adding much needed firepower to a largely floundering forward group. The outgoing forward Marcus Basara was subsequently picked up by the Fife Flyers, providing injury cover for star forward Chase Schaber. Brooks would be joined by Felix-Antoine Poulin in making his home debut this weekend, with the latter bringing much needed depth to the blueline. Matt Ginn kept his placed as starting netminder, which meant Jindrich Pacl and Dylan Anderson were the healthy scratches. Linden Springer remains sidelined through injury, although he is expected to return to the line-up in the coming weeks.
The Giants came into the weekend missing several key players: Patrick Dwyer, Mark Garside, Jim Vandermeer, Colin Shields, Matt Towe and third choice netminder Andrew Dickson. The impressive Tyler Beskorowany extended his run as starting netminder for the Northern Irish side and recent addition Kevin Raine dressed again. Ex-Storm and GB international Paul Swindlehurst makes his first return to Manchester, after departing to Belfast this off-season.
A trademark physical first period from Manchester was well matched by the visitors, as these two heavyweight outfits went toe to toe in the early rounds. This brought the crowd into the game from the outset and the Shelter was rocking, yet with penalties consistently being adjudged for both sides tensions mounted. These frustrations nearly spilled over when both team coaches were berating one another for a lengthy period of time, when another difference of opinion provoked a response from the benches. The penalties dished out included an interference game misconduct for British forward Ciaran Long, plus fighting majors for Long & Ehrhardt (Manchester) and Riley & Leonard (Belfast). Despite the anarchy, goals were actually scored! Luke Moffatt broke the deadlocked after just 64 seconds with a neat wraparound play with assists going to Dane Byers and Logan MacMillan. Following this, Belfast responded well netting twice before the first intermission, with Blair Riley tapping in for the first at the far post after excellent work from linemates Darcy Murphy and David Rutherford. The second Belfast goal included the same three forwards, this time Murphy was the goal scorer from Rutherford and Riley.
The second period saw Belfast handed a 5on3 opportunity, when Storm Head Coach Ryan Finnerty was assessed two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct at the conclusion of 1st period and Long’s game misconduct had not yet expired. The relentless offensive zone pressure eventually produced a goal with Kyle Baun tucking away a rebound from close range, assists going to Dustin Johner & Hunter Bishop. Although, a good passage of play from Manchester saw them cut the lead in half before the end of the 2nd period. A sweet one-timer from Mike Hammond brought up his 5th goal in just 9 appearances, after magnificent forechecking pressure from Shane Bakker and Robert Linsmayer forced the turnover deep in the Belfast zone.
A relatively subdued third meant the two points appeared to be heading back over the Irish Sea, until a superb tic-tac-toe play from Chris Auger, Shane Bakker and Evan Richardson resulted in a game-tying goal with only 3:34 left in the game. This Chris Auger goal (his third in three games) sent the game into overtime; an overtime which saw golden chances created and spurned by both sides. The most notably misses were from Manchester Storm, with forwards Dane Byers and Rob Linsmayer both failing to convert 1on1 opportunities. Storm would be made to pay for these misses, with Elite League veteran David Rutherford finishing superbly over Ginn’s gloveside to seal a crucial road victory for Belfast. This victory pushed Belfast into 2nd place with an impressive 9-4-0 start to the seasons. Whilst, the Storm take the long trip south to Guildford tomorrow in search of just their second away win of the season as they look to improve a mediocre 5-7-1 record, which puts them in joint 8th position with Dundee.
MVP’s: Shane Bakker (Manchester Storm) & David Rutherford (Belfast Giants)
SOG: Storm 29 Giants 56
Feature Image: Mark Ferriss/Manchester Storm