16 April 2023

Giants Defeat Devils in Playoff Final to Clinch Historic Treble

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The Stena Line Belfast Giants created history tonight as they completed the treble for the first time by winning the Viaplay Elite League Playoffs, defeating the Cardiff Devils 4-1 in the final at the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham.

The Elite League and Challenge Cup champions fought back from Mark Richardson's early goal to claim a three-goal win and lift their third trophy of the season, Jeff Baum, Steven Owre, Donovan Neuls and Mark Cooper all on target in the win.

Both sides had chances early, Tyler Beskorowany making a big save to deny Jake Coughler out front before Ben Bowns did likewise as Grant Cooper tries to redirect the rebound off Baum's shot from a tight angle, sticking out the pad to deflect it away.

Indeed, it was all Giants as Bowns once again denied Mark Cooper's angled shot and then a scramble around the net somehow did not make its way past the Devils goaltender, followed a skirmish around the Cardiff net as tempers flared.

After Beskorowany made an impressive double stop to deny Trevor Cox going one way, his forwards couldn't find a way through at the other end despite the Devils taking a too many men on the ice call, which put them on the powerplay.

Instead, it was Cardiff who struck the hammer blow just 1.8 seconds before the buzzer for the end of the period, Cole Sanford wrapping the puck around the net and putting it back in front for the supporting Richardson to slam home for the go-ahead goal. (0-1)

Bowns picked up where he left off in the middle period, producing an incredible pad save to deny Ben Lake he tipped David Gilbert's shot on goal, then the netminder once again denied Mark Cooper with an outstanding glove save on a powerplay as Coughler sat for tripping.

Ciaran Long came within inches of tying the game when his shot hit the post just as Coughler's penalty expired, then Scott Conway had a massive chance on a second powerplay as Blake Thompson headed off for delay of game, shooting the puck through the crease with Bowns pulled out of position.

Cardiff almost doubled their lead when Brodie Reid tipped Coughler's shot and it hit the post, but instead the Giants tied it up as Mark Garside's brilliant reverse pass gave Baum space at the blue-line and he picked the top corner at 37:20. (1-1)

The Giants could have led at the intermission, too, as Conway - just out of the box having taken an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty while celebrating Baum's goal - was picked out by Owre at the back post but Bowns somehow flung his pads around to save.

A tense third period was devoid of big chances in the early going as neither side wanted to over-commit, a pass from Lake going through the crease and wide as he looked for a tip, while at the other end Beskorowany needed to be alert to block a Marcus Crawford effort.

But when the goals came, they came in quick succession. Owre got what would prove to be the game-winner at 51:42 when he batted down David Goodwin's pass on the rush and roofed it over Bowns' shoulder (2-1), with Neuls rubber-stamping the win just 56 seconds later when he took Mark Cooper's reverse pass and finished low. (3-1)

The Devils pulled Bowns for the extra skater early in a bid to pull back the deficit and force overtime, but instead Mark Cooper settled it, skating the puck into the offensive zone and firing into the empty net with 2:39 remaining as the party started both on the bench and in the stands. (4-1)

The final buzzer prompted scenes of jubilation as the players threw off their equipment and celebrated in front of the Giants fans having become the first team in club history to win all three trophies in one season, and their first Playoff crown since 2010.

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