Panthers 4 Giants 3 (After OT & Penalty Shots)

The season started for real last night and both teams played out a quite superb game for the Sky cameras and the 5,313 in attendance. A nearly full arena on TV is a good image to present to the non-hockey going public.

As for the game itself, the Giants came out of the blocks like a gazelle and threatened to over run Panthers in the early stages. Tim Cook scored after just 2.26, a blue line blast that the screened Craig Kowalski didn’t see. After the goal the predicted fight between Alex Penner and Mike Hoffman took place. After all the build up it was a little disappointing, I’d say slight edge to Penner as he appeared to connect with a few punches while Hoffman appeared to hold on. Judge for yourself on the YouTube video below:

If the fight was staged to turn momentum Panthers way it didn’t work, Mike Bayrack picked up the puck on the blue line and skated in to beat Kowalski and make it 2-0 to the visitors. At this point I was expecting a Giants landslide, but the second goal seemed to spark Panthers into life. Players started finishing their checks, none more so than Matt Myers who was steam rolling anything that moved, one particular hit behind the net on Dan Welch stood out, cleaning out the former Panther.
A double power play opportunity gave Panthers the chance to get back into the game, which they duly took, David Clarke blasting past Murphy after a great feed from Jade Galbraith. Both teams continued to press but the first ended 2-1 in the visitors favour.

There was no let up in the pace as the second started, in fact we were 4.47 into the period before the first whistle was blown. Once again it was end to end stuff, but it was Panthers who grabbed the equaliser while short handed. David Beauregard taking a superb pass from Danny Meyers and beating Murphy to make it 2-2.
Panthers were starting to look the better side now, lead by Jonathan Zion who was beating players and skating into the zone with ease, several times he set team mates up for shots but they were finding Murphy equal to them. Giants were still dangerous in the offensive zone though and Kowalski had to be at his best to prevent chances for Colin Shields and Bayrack.

Into the third and Panthers took the lead early. Myers pass across to Beauregard in front caught a Giants skate and the puck went past Murphy and into the net. The atmosphere, which was excellent all night, went up another notch! The third continued to be an end to end game, with Panthers searching for an insurance goal and Giants pressing for an equaliser. In the final minutes of the period the Giants went up a gear and after failing to convert on a powerplay opportunity a scramble around the net allowed Brett Hemmingway to roof one past Kowalski and take the game into overtime. To be honest, a draw was a fair result as there was very little separating the teams over 60 minutes. Overtime failed to produce a winner so it was on to penalty shots. Controversy reigned in sudden death as Galbraith’s penalty shot clearly hit the roof of the net but referee Moray Hanson waved no goal. What worried me was that I could quite clearly see it was in from near the back of Block 13 but Hanson couldn’t from 4 feet away!
No matter though, on the next round of shots Galbraith scored again, this time it was given and Panthers took the points.

This was a great game played by two excellent teams with very little to separate them. Both will be challenging come the end of the season on that showing and if every game is as good as that this season I will be a very happy and satisfied fan.

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