Challenge Cup quarter-final first leg: Belfast Giants draw in Manchester

Chris Higgins netted the opener for the Belfast Giants in Sunday's game against the Storm
Chris Higgins netted Belfast's final-period equaliser in Manchester

Belfast Giants fought back from 3-1 down to earn a 3-3 draw in the Challenge Cup quarter-final first leg away to Manchester Storm.

After a goalless first period, Trevor Johnson's Manchester strike was the first of five second-period goals.

Jeff Mason levelled for the Giants before Mario Trabucco and Matt Bissonnette netted further Storm goals.

Steve Saviano replied in the second period before Chris Higgins equalised with just over 11 minutes left.

Giants keeper Stephen Murphy made a superb late pointblank save to keep Belfast on terms heading into next Tuesday's second leg at the SSE Arena.

Prior to that, the Giants will have Elite League games against Nottingham (home) and Coventry (away) on Saturday and Sunday evenings.

Wednesday's game was the second tussle between Manchester and the Giants in three days after Belfast's 2-1 Elite League win on Sunday.

Murphy, starting with Ryan Martinelli still ruled out by injury, produced a string of fine first-period saves to keep the game goalless in the opening 20 minutes.

The deadlock was broken after only 89 seconds in the second period as Storm captain Johnson fired to the net.

Belfast were on terms within two minutes as good work by Blair Riley and player-coach Derrick Walser set up Mason to level.

However, within four minutes Trabucco slotted past Murphy to put his side 2-1 up while it was soon 3-1 for the home side as Bissonnette netted on the powerplay as he fired home after a Cody Cartier shot had rebounded off the backboards.

Saviano pulled a goal back with just under three minutes remaining in the second period after being played in by James Desmarais and good work from Matt Nickerson set up Higgins to level midway through the last period.