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Belfast Giants overcome Cardiff Devils to clinch Grand Slam

The Belfast Giants came from behind to defeat the Cardiff Devils 4-1 in the 2023 Elite League Playoff Final and clinch a franchise-first Grand Slam.

cardiff Devils -Belfast Giants, Elite League (Image: Hayley Roberts)

The Belfast Giants came from behind to defeat the Cardiff Devils 4-1 in the 2023 Elite League Playoff Final and clinch a franchise-first Grand Slam.

Adam Keefe’s squad were initially frustrated by a standout performance from opposition netminder Ben Bowns, with the 32-year-old producing a series of highlight reel saves to keep the score level in the opening exchanges.

Mark Richardson compounded Belfast’s headache with two seconds left to play in the first period, beating Tyler Beskorowany with a one-timer from the low slot, but Cardiff’s advantage was never set in concrete.

Mark Richardson, Cardiff Devils (Image: Dean Woolley)

Belfast Giants Grand Slam: Mark Richardson, Cardiff Devils (Image: Dean Woolley)

The Giants, already crowned champions of the Elite League and Challenge Cup, pushed for the equaliser in the middle frame and found it via the stick of Jeff Baum in the 37th minute.

Belfast purred once on level terms, with Steven Owre, Donovan Neuls, and Mark Cooper adding their names to the scoresheet as the clock ticked down in period three.

“It feels unbelievable,” explained Keefe. “This is the way the season was meant to end. These guys played the right way for eight months and were rewarded with the cup, league, and playoffs. There was no doubt that we could make it happen.

“We knew that Cardiff would come at us hard, but we stuck with it and were finally rewarded in the second period. That’s what it’s about – it’s about playing the game and pushing through.”

Beskorowany shut the door at the opposite end of the ice, bookending the season with a remarkable .946 save percentage in what could turn out to be his final professional appearance.

“This is amazing,” said the Canadian shortly after the final buzzer sounded in Nottingham. “It’s not easy to win one trophy [let alone three]. We knew that we had the team to win three trophies, that was our goal this year, and I’m just happy that we’ve been able to do it.

“It’s huge to finally get the treble. It’s difficult for the guys to buy in for eight or nine months, this one is special. The guys really deserve the trophy. The staff never doubted us for a second, it just feels amazing.”

Analysis: Ruthless Belfast Giants Secure Grand Slam Triumph

The Belfast Giants had repeatedly fallen just short of the Grand Slam in recent years.

Why? Motivation has been a factor for a team who dominate the regular-season before tailing off in the playoffs.

The Giants took last season’s playoff disappointment almost too well. They wanted to win the playoff title – but they didn’t need it to place value in their campaign.

It was different this time around.

Adam Keefe’s men wobbled in their quarter-final versus the Glasgow Clan, but blew the Nottingham Panthers and Cardiff Devils away at Playoff Finals Weekend.

Cardiff Devils - Scott Conway, Belfast Giants (Image: Dean Woolley)

Cardiff Devils Playoff Final: Scott Conway, Belfast Giants (Image: Dean Woolley)

They felt as though they needed to win the Grand Slam, and accomplished the feat comprehensively.

The Giants must now confront one of the most difficult questions in professional sports: what next for a squad and head coach who just won it all?

Has Keefe reached the summit in the Titanic Quarter or is there more for him to achieve with the Giants?

That is the extent of their quality – they must now turn their attention to holding the line in the Elite League while stretching to the limit in the Champions Hockey League.

There is no more lingering doubt.

We are in the midst of a Belfast Giants dynasty – and it is difficult to see which team will break their silverware stranglehold next term.

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