The Stena Line Belfast Giants defeated the Nottingham Panthers 5-4 on Friday night in Belfast thanks to a hat-trick from James Desmarais in a man of the match display by the forward. The win sees the Giants narrow the gap on the first placed Cardiff Devils to one point with the Belfast side having played two games more than the Welsh side.
Jackson Whistle got the start in the Belfast net with Jeff Mason the Giants scratch for Friday’s Elite league clash.
The Giants got off to a great start as Jim Vandermeer’s slapshot from the blueline rifled into the back of the Panthers net with only 88 seconds gone.
David Rutherford doubled the home side’s lead at 11:44 after some nice play in the Giants zone by Ryan Martinelli and Alex Foster.
39 seconds later, and it was 3-0. This time James Desmarais finished off a sweeping Giants move, assisted by Steve Saviano and Colin Shields.
Giants Captain Adam Keefe dropped the gloves with The Panthers’ Jeff Brown at 17:18 to the delight of the home fans inside The SSE Arena.
The middle period was a stalemate with Jackson Whistle and Jindrich Pacl in the Nottingham goal pulling off save after save to keep the score at 3-0 to the home side. Pacl was introduced to the game at 12:23 following the Giants third goal of the game.
Jeff Brown netted his 12th goal of the season when he opened the Panthers scoring at 44:12 to reduce the deficit to two goals.
Then, with 10:18 remaining in the game, James Desmarais scored his second of the night and the Giants fourth with a powerplay goal to extend the home side’s lead to 4-1.
The Panthers once again reduced the Giants lead to two goals when Chris Lawrence struck with 6:33 to go. However James Desmarais completed his hat-trick only 15 seconds later when his pass was deflected into the back of the Panthers net.
Robert Farmer made it a two goal game when he netted the visitors third of the game at 54:45, assisted by Jason Williams and Brad Moran. The home fans were on the edge of the seats at 58:19 when the Panthers drew to within one goal of the home side when Matt Carter scored, assisted by Dan Spang, with Pacl pulled for the extra outskater.
The Giants battled bravely to keep the Nottingham side out for the remaining seconds of the game to earn a well deserved home win on Saturday to move one point behind the first placed Cardiff Devils.
The Giants return to action on Saturday in Belfast against the Dundee Stars, face-off 7pm and tickets are now on sale online through Ticketmaster and from the Arena Box Office in person and by calling 028 9073 9074.
Stena Line Belfast Giants 5-4 Nottingham Panthers
Giants Man of the Match
#79 James Desmarais
— Belfast Giants (@BelfastGiants) January 20, 2017