Belfast Giants celebrate Elite League success in style

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It was party time at the Odyssey Arena on Friday night as the Belfast Giants were presented with the Elite League championship trophy in front of a packed house of over 6,000.

Giants fans young and old, turned out to celebrate the title win that was clinched with ten games to spare in Nottingham last Sunday night.

Even the City Hall in Belfast was lit up in the colours of the team - teal and red - to mark their success.

On the ice the home side showed no leniency on the Coventry Blaze as they powered to a 7-4 win.

The Blaze are potential play-off opponents later in the season and came into this weekend as the only team to leave the Odyssey Arena as winners in regulation, a 5-0 success back in September.

Under new head coach Marc Lefebvre they have a dozen games to get themselves ready for the play-offs and in a feisty first period they weren’t about to allow the Giants to indulge in those celebrations too early.

Stephen Murphy was by far the busier goaltender in the opening twenty minutes as tempers began to flare.

However, as they’ve done so often during their championship run, the Giants found a way to get on the scoreboard first with only 4.9 seconds remaining in the period.

On the powerplay Calvin Elfring made a diving stop, keeping the puck in the Blaze zone at the blueline. His shot took a deflection, hit the bar but Colin Shields was on hand to knock it in.

The home side made it 2-0 at 22:19. A hard working shift from the third line was rewarded when Jeff Mason’s wristed the puck into a crowd on front of Coventry netminder Mike Zacharias, it bounced of Darryl Lloyd and into the slot where captain Adam Keefe was following the play and he hammered it into the back of the net.

Coventry were making a lot of big hits but failing to control their discipline and with the man advantage at 26:29 the Giants went further ahead when Chris Higgins went back door to Craig Peacock who lifted the puck from an acute angle over the glove of Zacharias.

The Blaze got a goal back at 29:25 when referee adjudged Ryan Ginand’s shot to have gone in and out of the net despite the goal judge not turning his light on.

No matter, 19 seconds later Lloyd took out both Blaze defenceman, drawing a penalty but on the delayed call Peacock rammed home the Giants fourth goal.

Into the final period and Cale Tanaka’s centring pass was turned into his own net by Higgins at 42:13 but the Giants then scored the goal of the game.

Jeffrey Szwez began the transition with a rink wide pass to Colin Shields. Szwez then headed straight to the net, took the beautiful return feed from Shields and tucked the puck under the body of Zacharias.

The Giants made it 6-2 on the powerplay when Lloyd turned in Keefe’s pass at 51:23 before Adam Henrich converted 31 seconds later.

By this stage of the evening the Mexican Wave was in full force and both sides had dispensed with defence.

Shorthanded the Blaze made it 6-4 through Nejc Berlisk but it did little to dampen the atmosphere. Shields wrapped up another win with the empty netter with 38 seconds remaining, his 400th point as a Giant.

The trophy was hoisted high by Keefe, the champagne corks were popped and the party was soon in full swing.

After the trophy presentation comes the hockey tradition of dropping from the rafters the championship banner which will happen before tonight’s game between the same two teams.