The Belfast Giants were crowned Elite League champions for the fifth time in the club’s 19-year history on Sunday night without hitting a puck in anger.
A shock 3-1 away defeat for defending champions Cardiff Devils at the hands of Coventry Blaze handed Adam Keefe’s their first league title since 2014.
On that occasion, the Giants won the trophy at a canter but their latest triumph was achieved against the odds.
Before Christmas, they trailed Cardiff by 11 points but gradually chipped away at the Welsh franchise’s lead to stay in contention until the final weekend of the regular season.
As recently as 10 days ago, the Giants appeared to have blown their chances when they lost 4-1 to Manchester Storm.
But Cardiff’s defeat by Dundee 48 hours later threw Keefe’s men a lifeline and they proceeded to win four games in a row.
However, Cardiff, who had thrashed Milton Keynes 9-1 on Saturday night while Belfast were beating Dundee 6-4, still went into yesterday’s game needing only a point from a draw in regulation time to retain the title.
Few Giants fans would have given Coventry much of a chance of preventing what seemed inevitable, especially as there was little at stake for them after a 4-1 win over Manchester on Saturday had guaranteed them a place in the play-offs.
But Coventry went 2-0 up early in the second period and then added an insurance goal near the end to spark the celebrations.
Appropriately, the Giants’ latest title was achieved just as their annual awards night bash was about to start at a Belfast hotel.
The place erupted as the news filtered through, with many fans watching the drama in Coventry unfold on their mobile phones.
“It was nice to see the guys buckle down and get the win over Dundee to force Cardiff to get a result against Coventry. All we could do was control the controllables and the guys found a way to win at the weekend after a tough schedule, “ added Keefe.
Having also won the Challenge Cup, the Giants will now set out on a bid to complete a rare treble as they prepare to face Coventry in the play-off quarter finals over two legs with the first in Belfast on Saturday night.