The Belfast Giants turned in a professional performance on Wednesday night to beat the Fife Flyers 3-0 and close the gap on the Nottingham Panthers at the top of the standings to four points ahead of their clash at the National Ice Centre on Saturday night.
From the first shift of the game the ‘energy’ line of Darryl Lloyd, Adam Keefe and Mark Garside showed the intensity levels were there despite the fact they were missing their starting netminder Stephen Murphy and defenceman Sam Roberts who both joined long term absentee Andrew Fournier on the injured list.
Former Flyer Garrett Zemlak, released by the Braehead Clan last week, stepped in between the pipes for Murphy.
He was a spectator through most of the opening twenty minutes only having to make seven routine saves while his opposite number Bryan Pitton managed to make fifteen stops and keep the score line at only 1-0.
The only goal came on the Giants first powerplay of the night at 4:47 when Robby Sandrock’s blast from the blueline was saved by Pitton but he couldn’t control the rebound and Colin Shields was on hand to pick up the pieces.
Despite dominating play the home side didn’t add to their lead until 33:40 and only with a two-man advantage on the powerplay.
Once again it was a Sandrock shot from inside the blueline that Pitton made the initial save on but the puck landed on the stick of Noah Clarke and he set up the unmarked Kevin Saurette to fire home into the unguarded net.
The Flyers came out for the final period determined to try and get back in the game.
The breathing room for the Giants came with a tremendous solo effort at 45:50 by Lloyd. First he forced a turnover at centre ice, then he won the battle for the puck with the Flyers defenceman and then finished it off with a classy finish past Pitton.