Belfast Giants suffer setback in title bid

Jeff Mason of the Belfast Giants in action against Davide Nicoletti (left) and Steve Birnstill of the Braehead Clan
Jeff Mason of the Belfast Giants in action against Davide Nicoletti (left) and Steve Birnstill of the Braehead Clan

Just when the Belfast Giants had dragged themselves back into the Elite League title race and with a chance to join the Nottingham Panthers at the top of the standings, they stank the Odyssey Arena out for 40 minutes losing 6-2 to the Braehead Clan on Friday night.

In spite of a spirited attempt at a third period comeback the 4-0 hole they dug themselves in was too much.

After all the effort just a week ago in beating the Panthers and Coventry Blaze hopes were high that after a period of inconsistent results, especially at home, the Giants had found themselves and were ready to pursue the goal of retaining their title.

Simply put, while the race isn’t over, they can’t continue to put in performances at home like the ones against Sheffield, Dundee and now Braehead in the last few weeks and expect to come out on top as they cancel out all the efforts put in on the road.

From the moment Robert Farmer redirected the puck past Giants goalie Garrett Zemlak at 10:18 the Clan never looked like losing the game. They out-shot the Giants 11-6 in the opening 20 minutes and led 2-0 after Zemlak was hung out to dry by his defence at 16:19 to allow Ash Goldie to add to the lead.

Too many one-on-one battles were being lost and the inept work in their defensive zone continued into the second period.

While Darryl Lloyd was trying his best to ignite the crowd with heavy hits his team mates seemed too ready to stand around and admire what he was doing, allowing an odd man rush at 26:17 that Farmer finished easily without being touched.

Before the announcement of that goal to the crowd was finished the Clan had added a fourth, once more with no contact, Goldie found Jade Gabraith.

Lloyd then leveled Kevin Phillips and was ridiculously tossed from the game by referee Michael Hicks and despite Matt Hanson going after Lloyd and being intercepted by Keefe who promptly dropped the gloves, the Giants captain somehow ended up with an extra twelve minutes for instigating.

Playing 4-on-4 hockey at the start of the final period Will Colbert pocketed a rebound to put the Giants on the board 58 seconds in.

Suddenly the home team started playing like the home team dominating play and when Colin Shields made it a two-goal game at 44:50 there was just a feeling inside the building that the improbable was possible.

But the Giants powerplay, which went 0-for-6 in the game, couldn’t capitalise on a four-minute advantage and even coughed up a shorthanded goal to Toms Hartmanis that stopped the comeback in its tracks.

Goldie added the empty netter to finish another poor Odyssey display by the Giants.