The Belfast Giants just keep on winning while all those around them continue to drop points.
While Paul Adey’s side were taking care of their own business by dispatching the hapless Sheffield Steelers 5-2 on Saturday night to complete a four-point home doubleheader weekend in front of nearly 10,000 fans at the Odyssey Arena, their closest title challengers were all struggling.
Second place Braehead Clan blew a late 6-4 lead to lose 7-6 in overtime to the Fife Flyers and then lost again at Nottingham last night. The Panthers had been beaten by Cardiff on Saturday.
It all adds up to a seven-point lead at the top of the Elite League standings for the Giants.
After a lacklustre display in Friday’s 3-2 overtime victory over the Fife Flyers, after which coach Adey admitted they may have been looking ahead to the Steelers game a little too much, the Giants knew they could open up a double digit lead in the standings over their old coach Doug Christiansen and the Steelers with a win on Saturday.
The first period was the best twenty minutes of hockey seen at the Odyssey so far this season.
It was full of incident and intensity and by the end of it the Giants had a 2-1 lead.
However it was the visitors who took the lead when Steven Goertzen scored on a breakaway at 5:53.
But it was the Giants who were hitting harder and playing smarter and they took the lead with two goals in twenty seconds.
Jeffrey Szwez led an odd man rush, passing the puck to Colin Shields who buried the slap shot beyond Steelers goalie Frank Doyle.
Then, on the very next shift the puck broke to Robby Sandrock who carried it into the offensive zone and beat Doyle through the 5-hole.
To add to the excitement Adam Keefe and Tim Spencer then dropped the gloves and hammered each other in a bout that had the fans on their feet.
Both sides had powerplay opportunities, the first three to the Steelers and the next four to the Giants in the latter stages of the second period and they eventually got a vital third goal with five seconds remaining before the second intermission.
With the man advantage Sandrock’s slap pass from the right point was redirected into the net by Shields.
Ahead by two goals the Giants played the perfect defensive third period, stifling the Steelers attack up until 1:44 to go when Drew Fata made it 3-2.
There followed a frantic scramble in front of the Giants net but the puck stayed out and Sandrock lifted it into the empty net to secure the points. Kevin Saurette added to his tally for the season with a second empty netter with 12 seconds to go.
The Giants will be at home again on Saturday night against the Coventry Blaze.