The Stena Line Belfast Giants suffered Champions Hockey League defeat on Thursday night in Czech Republic as Liberec won their first game. The 6-1 scoreline was harsh on the Giants following last Thursday’s impressive 5-4 victory in Belfast over the 2018/19 Czech regular season champions and Champions League semi-finalists in 2017/18.
Down by two at the end of the opening period – the Giants, cheered on by 300 loud Belfast fans in Liberec, fought back to show grit on the penalty kill and got their reward when Ben Lake scored Belfast’s first ever Champions Hockey League away goal. In the end, the home side proved too strong on the night – however the Giants remain ahead of Liberec in Group C after three games played.
Shane Owen started in the Belfast net, posting 30 saves, with the Giants missing the injured Jesse Forsberg. The Giants will now travel to Augsburg in Germany for their fourth Champions Hockey League clash on Sunday.
The hosts got off to the best possible start when Libor Hudáček’s effort from the blueline, assisted by Lukáš Derner and Michal Birner, found it’s way into the Belfast net at 0:39.
Petr Jelínek doubled Liberec’s lead at 8:39, taking full advantage of the loose puck in the Giants zone and finishing well past Shane Owen.
Owen and the Giants penalty kill unit fought bravely in the opening period, impressively killing off a four minute powerplay and another at the end of the period.
The Giants fought back and Ben Lake’s one-timer at 24:26, after some great work by Liam Morgan, cut the Liberec lead in half.
However the hosts two goal advantage was restored any 28:14 when Marek Zachar squeezed the puck home at 28:14, assisted by Petr Jelínek and Tomáš Havlín.
52 seconds later and it was 4-1. This time it was Libor Hudáček who doubled his tally on the night at 29:06, firing home from a tight angle, assisted by Jaroslav Vlach.
Liberec scored shorthanded early in the final period thanks to Radan Lenc’s breakaway finish at 45:15, assisted by Tomáš Filippi.
The Czech side finished their scoring with two seconds remaining when Rostislav Marosz bundled the puck home, assisted by Radan Lenc.
Photo: Belfast Giants.