Old time hockey returned to the Odyssey Arena on Saturday night with goals, big hits, fights and a little goonery as the Belfast Giants hammered the Coventry Blaze 8-2 in the second game of a doubleheader between the sides.
The question most supporters were asking is why the madly inconsistent Giants can’t play like that every night.
On Friday the Blaze had outplayed a lackluster home side winning 5-2, the fourth time this season the Giants had failed to win the first game of a home doubleheader.
On each occasion however they’ve bounced straight back to record a victory in the second match-up.
“I did very little to be honest, the players decided they wanted to play and that’s the reality of it. Sometimes as a team you get into the position where you need a spark and maybe that’s what Saturday’s game was. Every time this season this team has had their backs up against the wall they’ve responded. It’s not so much the response that I need to worry about, it’s the night before the response,” said coach Doug Christiansen afterwards.
“For us as a team, if we want to achieve our goals we need to play like that every night and if we do that we’re a really good hockey club, we’re a title contender but if we play like we did on Friday night it could be a disappointing end.”
Christiansen is selling himself short when he says he did very little after Friday night’s loss. He made a statement to his players by starting Belfast’s Gareth Roberts on the first shift of the game sending a clear message to the more experienced players that they needed to fight for the shirt.
Roberts, starved of ice time for most of the season, responded by playing a physical game and scoring a big goal as well.
The Giants took the lead at 7:36 through Noah Clarke but Adam Henrich leveled at 15:07 on the powerplay.
Two goals in the space of 18 seconds put the Giants ahead for good as Matt Towe and new signing Chad Langlais found the net and before the first intermission captain Adam Keefe stepped up and fought Benn Olson.
The visitors dominated the second period but only one of their nineteen shots got passed Garrett Zemlak with Dustin Cameron scoring at 24:25.
It was Keefe again who rallied his team early in the third period as he took on Mike Egener in his second fight of the night and the penalty box doors were constantly open as the Blaze especially began to lose their cool.
It was the Giants who capitalized as they scored two goals in an eighteen second span for the second time. Roberts scored his first of the season at 44:09 with Craig Peacock adding a fifth.
As Coventry racked up the goonery and the penalty minutes the Giants powerplay scored three times in the closing stages with two strikes from Daymen Rycroft sandwiched around a second goal for Clarke.
Despite the win the Giants slipped to third place in the standings, four points behind Nottingham and one adrift of Sheffield who have won seven games in a row to make this a three-team race for the Elite League title once again.