Late arrival fails to hamper Stingrays in Belfast

DELIGHT: Hull Stingrays player-coach Omar Pacha scored the game-winning goal against reigning Elite League champions Belfast Giants on Saturday night. Picture: Arthur Foster.
DELIGHT: Hull Stingrays player-coach Omar Pacha scored the game-winning goal against reigning Elite League champions Belfast Giants on Saturday night. Picture: Arthur Foster.
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PLAYER-COACH Omar Pacha hailed his Hull Stingrays players’ “best performance” of the season after they stunned Elite League champions Belfast Giants 4-2 at the Odyssey Arena.

What was even more impressive about Hull’s victory was that they came from 2-0 down to achieve it, enabling them to add to the 3-2 success they had over Steve Thornton’s side on home ice last month.

“It was a massive win and a great team performance - our best game of the season,” said Pacha.

“Every single guy bought in, they worked hard and competed for 60 minutes.

“We were delayed getting here but I thought we did OK in the first period but we stayed composed and created a lot of chances.

“This weekend I wanted us to get back to playing Stingrays hockey and playing to our strengths and we did that.”

Second-placed Belfast were looking to add to their three-game winning streak in the league and looked likely to do so after an 11th-minute opener from defenceman Jeff Mason. A second goal from Evan Cheverie at 15.18 looked set to confirm the home victory expected by most people.

But Stingrays stormed back in the second period and went in at the second break ahead, first getting on the board through Will Frederick at 27.17 before top goalscorer Cory Tanaka levelled just over seven minutes later. Pacha himself got what proved to be the game-winning goal on the powerplay less than a minute after Tanaka’s strike.

Given the situation, it would have been no surprise if Hull’s goal had been under siege in the third, but they actually out shot their hosts in the final section and by 30-29 on the night, with Eric Galbraith’s 12th of the season – a shorthanded – effort – doubling their lead and securing back-to-back regulation wins over Giants for the first time since 2008.

It gets no easier for Stingrays on Sunday night when they welcome leaders Braehead Clan to Hull Arena (6pm), Ryan Finnerty’s side buoyed by a 5-1 win over Fife Flyers and defeats for title rivals Belfast, Cardiff Devils and Sheffield Steelers which put them six points clear at the top.

“We are halfway to making it a great weekend for us,” added Pacha.

“If we produce the same effort and work-rate against Braehead then we have an excellent chance of making it another four-point weekend.”

Tonight will mark Braehead’s last visit of the season to East Yorkshire and they will be looking to add to the 8-6 and 2-0 wins they enjoyed previously. Hull won the most recent encounter, however, truimphing 6-2 in November.