Belfast Giants go three points clear at top of Elite League after beating Dundee

: Former Belfast Giants player Kaspars Astasenko has passed away at the age of 37
: Former Belfast Giants player Kaspars Astasenko has passed away at the age of 37

The Belfast Giants re-established a three point lead at the top of the Elite League standings with a 5-2 road win over the Dundee Stars on Friday night.

After a delay to the opening face-off it was the home side that took the early lead through leading forward Sami Ryhanen at 2:29.

However it was a Scot who got the Giants back on level terms when Mark Garside scored his first goal of the season to tie the game at 1-1 at the end of the first period.

Three goals in the middle session put the Giants in control. Andrew Fournier’s marker early in the period put them ahead for the first time and Darryl Lloyd and Jeff Mason followed to make it 4-1 but a strike by Mike Wirll gave the Stars a chance with twenty minutes remaining.

The home side pushed hard to close the gap further but short-handed Craig Peacock converted Sam Roberts pass to make it a three-goal game once again and it would seal the points.

The Giants return home to the Odyssey Arena on Saturday to take on the Edinburgh Capitals, another game they’ll be expecting to win.

It’s the Scottish side’s first visit to Belfast this season and they come up against their former coach Doug Christiansen.

“Saturday night’s game against Edinburgh at the Odyssey Arena will be a difficult game.

“They’re different from other teams in the Elite League in that they play a European style of hockey.

“The Capitals are a much improved team from last season and we will need to be wary of them,” said Christiansen.

There was also some sad news from the Giants organisation. Former defenceman Kaspars Astasenko passed away at the age of 37.

The Latvian represented his country at several international events with the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City and the 2006 IIHF World Championship in his hometown of Riga as the career highlights. He came to Belfast at the end of the 2010-11 season.

Giants General Manager Todd Kelman paid this tribute.

“Kaspars was an elite hockey player, he played in the top league in the world when he was 20 years old.

“He was only with the Giants for a short time, but he made a big impact with his teammates.

“He was a great guy and an excellent teammate, very popular with the guys and always smiling.

“This is very sad news and our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time,” added General manager Kelman.