The Stena Line Belfast Giants made history on Thursday night in Belfast as they produced a momentous performance to defeat the 2017 Semi-Finalists 5-4 in the Champions Hockey League opening game.
The atmosphere was electric with the Belfast crowd as goals from Brian Ward (x2), Bobby Farnham, Patryk Wronka and Curtis Hamilton ensured a famous victory for the Giants in their 20th anniversary season opener.
The Giants will now face the highly rated Augsburger Panther from Germany on Saturday in their second group game in Belfast. Shane Owen started in the Giants net, posting 21 saves, with the Giants icing a full line up.
The Giants Champions Hockey League campaign got off to the best possible start when Jordan Smotherman picked out Bobby Farnham all alone at the back post and the forward slotted home on the powerplay at at 2:00.
The visitors hit back with a special teams goal of their own at 7:21 when Libor Hudáček hammered home.
However the Giants piled on the pressure and got their reward at 11:26 when Patryk Wronka turned the puck over and then pounced on Lewis Hook’s rebound to edge the hosts in front again.
Ronald Knot snatched a second Liberec equaliser of the night at 16:15 with a fine wrister high into the Giants net.
Belfast, buoyed on by a loud home arena, found another go-ahead goal early in the middle period. Brian Ward skated the puck into the Liberec zone and finished well at 23:29.
Liberec fought back at 31:48 when Libor Hudáček netted on the resulting powerplay after the Referees sent Bobby Farnham to the penalty box for roughing.
Kevin Raine took matters into his own hands at 37:01 when he dropped the gloves with Liberec’s Jan Ordoš after a coming together in the Giants end.
The Giants ended the period in style with an awesome one-timer finish from Curtis Hamilton at 39:40 to give Belfast a 4-3 lead and send the home crowd wild.
The Giants battled well during the final period and extended their lead at 44:31. This time it was Brian Ward for his second of the night, tipping home Pat Mullen’s shot from the blueline on the powerplay.
Liberec struck a late consolation goal with 28 seconds remaining through Jacob Valský, assisted by Ladislav Šmíd and Michal Birner.
Photo credit: Belfast Giants.