Belfast Giants progress to final of Elite League Challenge Cup

Jeffrey Szwez of the Belfast Giants
Jeffrey Szwez of the Belfast Giants

The Belfast Giants reached the final of the Elite League Challenge Cup, going through the formalities of the second leg of their semi-final at the Cardiff Devils on Wednesday night.

The damage had been inflicted on the Welsh side last week in the 7-1 win at the Odyssey Arena so the 3-3 tie left Paul Adey’s side 10-4 winners on aggregate.

Not that the coach wasn’t taking the game seriously as he reminded his players by calling an early time-out in the second period immediately after the Giants had gone 3-1 behind.

But as has been the trend in recent games, they recovered from a poor middle session and dominated the third period to make sure they didn’t lose the game despite the result of the overall tie never being in doubt.

The Devils had former Giants coach Dave Whistle behind the bench and were fresh off two wins in his first two matches as interim coach while Brent Pope fulfils his media requirements at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The impact Whistle has had on the team in his first few days in charge could be seen immediately when Mac Faulkner opened the scoring at 3:54.

The Giants would be back on terms late in the first period when Jeffrey Szwez scored in the powerplay, assisted by Dustin Whitecotton and Robby Sandrock.

However, in the second period the Giants mustered only four shots with Cardiff firing 15 in goalie Stephen Murphy. Two of them found the back of the net and both came from the stick of Matthew Myers just 37 seconds after the restart and then again at 27:39.

It was then that Adey called the timeout, unimpressed with his side’s lack of application and intensity.

The response, in terms of goals, didn’t come until 49:42 when Szwez scored again, his 28th goal of the season and then with Myers in the penalty box it was Kevin Saurette who equalised at 53:31.

The Giants will meet either Sheffield or Nottingham in the final later in the season but will return to their march towards the league title at home this weekend with Hull and Fife the visitors to the Odyssey Arena on Friday and Saturday evenings.