Just when the Belfast Giants look as if they’re back in the hunt for the Elite League title they produce yet another hugely disappointing display as the visiting Coventry Blaze put them to the sword 5-2 on Friday night.
What is even more baffling is the home form at the Odyssey Arena that has simply not been strong enough.
Either the Giants have been forced to fight back from deficits to win close games or they’ve lost.
Against Coventry it was their defensive zone coverage which was simply awful, and yet again they find themselves looking to other teams to beat the Nottingham Panthers to get them back into contention.
The gap is still two points but the Giants have played a game more and now have Sheffield breathing down their necks just a further point behind in third place.
The game couldn’t have gotten off to a better start for the Giants when they took the lead at 1:19. Darryl Lloyd beat his back checker to the puck as he followed up on the play and fired home from the left circle as the puck went 5-hole on Blaze goalie Peter Hirsch.
However the home went behind with two goals that came from mistakes in their own zone. At 15:36 Mark Garside over skated the puck, which allowed a 2-on-1 down low, and Derek Campbell finished the break.
Into the second period and at 30:31 there was a defensive mix-up in the Giants zone between Graeme Walton and Chad Langlais as they both went to block the puck leaving Brad Leeb all alone in the left circle but it was still a fine one timer over the glove of netminder Garrett Zemlak.
Then moments after Daymen Rycroft missed an open goal for the Giants, skating 4-on-4, the Blaze made it a 3-1 game when Adam Henrich netted at 37:39
Lloyd and Adam Keefe tried to lead a third period revival but offensively the Giants created very little pressure and the Blaze went further ahead at 48:55 when they executed a perfect 3-on-2 breakout with Leeb the trailer on the play and he went high again to beat Zemlak.
With 7:40 remaining Noah Clarke buried the puck to briefly raise hopes of a comeback but Henrich iced the game with an empty netter.
The two sides will face-off again on Saturday evening
Meanwhile Giants coach Doug Christiansen has commented on the reduction of the suspension to forward Greg Stewart from nine games to six.
Christiansen wasn’t happy with the procedures involved at coming to that decision and appealed it.
“The appeals committee consisted of three people completely outside the EIHL. They were instructed to only review the additional three games. I believe the appeals committee did their job. Going forward, I hope the league is more transparent with how decisions are made.”