The Belfast Giants fell to a shock 5-2 defeat against unfancied Dundee Stars at the Odyssey on Friday night and the result has seriously damaged their chances of retaining their Elite League title.
Doug Christiansen’s side had been expecting to claim maximum points to reduce the gap at the top of the table.
They went into the game on the back of two wins over the Scottish side earlier in the campaign having beaten them 5-2 in Dundee and 2-1 on their home patch.
But Dundee hadn’t read the script and they emerged deserving winners after coming from 2-1 down to score four goals without reply.
Robbie Sandrock had put the hosts ahead early in the second period but it all went downhill after that.
The result leaves the Giants six points behind leaders Nottingham with a game in hand and Christiansen’s side now face a must-win game against Coventry Blaze tonight.
It doesn’t get any easier though as the Giants must then play the Panthers next weekend when defeat would all but end their chances of retaining the title.
This time last year the Giants were in pole position and the Giants coach admits the scenario this time around is a little different.
“Right now when you’re trailing you don’t have any room for error and you want to keep putting pressure on the team that’s ahead of you.” said Christiansen.
“Last year we were in the position of being on top and forcing teams to win games - now we are the team that has to win those games and catch Nottingham.”
Christiansen revealed that the players are already prepared for tonight’s game against Coventry whom they defeated 4 -1 in their last meeting.
“When you’ve a double-header you’ve a game plan and you have to spend part of the week not necessarily talking about what Coventry can do but at least having things in place.” he added.
“That way when you brings the guys in for a meeting on Saturday morning it’s not like you’re talking a foreign language.”
The language might have been somewhat choice in the locker-room last night after Christiansen failed to get the response he was looking for after his team produced a below-par display in losing 4-1 to the Sheffield Steelers in their last home outing.
AJ MacLean put the visitors ahead in the eighth minute but Damen Rycroft scored eight minutes later to tie the scores at the end of the opening 20 minutes.
Sandrock put the Giants 2-1 up early in the second period from a trademark slap shot but that was as good as it got for the home team.
Pat Bowen made it 2-2 and then Billy Bagron scored to put the Conference side 3-2 up going into the final 20 minutes.
Mike Wiril hit two further goals in the third period to leave the Giants with it all to do if they are to retain the trophy with the Fife Flyers to come to the Odyssey next Wednesday night after Saturday night’s must-win game with Coventry, as points are vital at this stage of the season.