Belfast Giants keep pressure on leaders Nottingham

A rejuvenated Belfast Giants took four points from a tough weekend to keep the pressure on the Elite League leading Nottingham Panthers and their own title hopes alive.

After all the headlines last week being made by the situation regarding the ownership of the club, the crowd of just under 5,000 gave the players a standing ovation when they took to the Odyssey Arena ice on Saturday to show their appreciation of the moral stance they took in resigning from their contracts and then sticking by the team and signing on with new owners at the Odyssey Trust.

They then manhandled the Sheffield Steelers to virtually end the visitors chances of winning the league.

Coach Doug Christiansen had talked during the build-up about scoring ‘dirty’ goals by taking the puck to the net and battling to win one-on-one battles.

Led by the line of Darryl Lloyd, Adam Keefe and Mark Garside they did just that opening the scoring at 9:32 when Keefe drove the net and in the ensuing scramble Garside poked home the loose puck to make it 1-0.

With only 43 seconds of the second period played the Giants doubled their lead with a strike from Keefe that also owed a lot to hard work.

Lloyd assisted on both goals but the man of the match got his reward at 49:17 that gave the home side a little breathing room.

It came after Simon Ferguson had boarded Keefe and then as he tried to goad the Giants captain into a fight took another two-minute penalty for roughing setting up the powerplay opportunity that Lloyd took advantage off to make it 3-0.

With the game won it was a case of trying to get goaltender Garrett Zemlak his fifth shutout.

However, with Steelers on the powerplay Tyler Michel ended any chance of that as he scored a consolation goal at 58:01.

Facing their third game in four nights the Giants found themselves 2-0 down at the Cardiff Devils last night after only 1:45 of the game thanks to Max Birbraer and Josh Batch.

It was Lloyd with his 15th goal of the season that began to steady the ship at 8:16 and despite being shorthanded a strike from Chad Langlais at 32:11 tied the game at 2-2.

Then it was the Giants powerplay that took over with a blast from Robby Sandrock at 34:21 putting them ahead in the game for good.

Into the third period Noah Clarke made it 4-2 only for Stuart MacRae to pull the Devils back into contention.

It was Langlais who sealed the victory with his second goal of the night at 54:21 with the defenceman finishing with a four-point game.

The gap between the Giants and Panthers at the top of the standings is two points but the Giants have played a game more.

The two sides will meet at the Odyssey Arena tomorrow night in the second leg of the Challenge Cup semi-final with the Panthers 5-1 up from the first game in Nottingham.