IN front of a crowd of more than 5,200 at the Odyssey Arena on Saturday night the Belfast Giants kept the pressure on the Nottingham Panthers at the top of the Elite League with a 5-4 win over the Hull Stingrays.
After a fantastic first period in which they dominated play and built a 4-1 lead, Doug Christiansen’s side made heavy weather of claiming the two points as they coughed up three powerplay goals in the middle session before Craig Peacock stepped up with the game winner, with the man advantage, just 46 seconds into the third period.
The result kept the gap between the Panthers and Giants at four points with the Giants having played two games less.
From the moment Darryl Lloyd leveled Jason Silverthorn during the first shift of the game the tone was set for a physical encounter and the first twenty minutes were played at a tremendous tempo.
The Giants took the lead at 8:57 with a beautiful redirection by Kevin Saurette from Craig Peacock’s shot.
The Stingrays powerplay and in particular Jeremy Tendler would cause the Giants penalty killers palpitations all night and he equalized at 10:44.
But Saurette would answer just a couple of minutes later getting reward once again for going to the net and he was on hand to poke the puck home after a powerplay blast from Robby Sandrock was only half saved.
The Giants were rampant for the remainder of the first period and Sam Roberts and Colin Shields set up Greg Stewart for the third goal as the big forward won another battle in front of the Stingrays net.
Noah Clarke added the fourth for the home side at 16:28 and it looked like the rout was on.
But the Stingrays took advantage of penalty calls on the Giants in the second period. Tendler feasted on his opportunities completing his hat-trick with a brace of goals and Silverthorn added another powerplay marker with a minute to go in the period to tie the game at 4-4.
But a late penalty on the visitors saw a Giants powerplay carry over to the third period and Peacock’s effort would prove to be the difference.
As well as two big league points the game also doubled up as the second leg of the Challenge Cup quarter-final. The Giants carried a 3-1 lead and went on to win 8-5 on aggregate to set up a last fur clash with either the Panthers or Fife Flyers.
In the league the Giants will visit Braehead on Thursday with a big Saturday night date at home with the Sheffield Steelers on the schedule.