The Stena Line Belfast Giants won the opening game of a two-game weekend series against the Nottingham Panthers with a 7-3 victory on Friday.
The victory sees the Giants close the gap on the first placed Cardiff Devils to five points. Both sides meet again on Sunday, with face-off 4pm at The SSE Arena.
James Desmarais hammered home from the top of the circle to fire the Giants into a 1-0 lead at 10:34, assisted by Colin Shields and Steve Saviano.
Michael Quesnele doubled the home side’s lead 2:29 later when he ripped a wrist shot high into the Panthers let, assisted by James Desmarais and Ryan Martinelli.
Colin Shields made it 3-0 at 14:08 after he redirected Ryan Martinelli’s pass, to give the home side a comprehensive lead after the opening period of play.
Chris Lawrence scored on a Giants powerplay early in the second period to pull one back for the Nottingham Panthers.
However at 25:51, David Rutherford scored on the powerplay, assisted by Derrick Walser and Colin Shields, to regain the Giants three goal advantage.
Shields grabbed his second of the game with the Belfast side’s second powerplay goal of the game at 27:33, assisted by David Rutherford and James Desmarais.
Blair Riley made it 6-1 to the Giants at 29:32 after Chris Higgins found the forward with a fine pass through the Panthers defence.
Shields netted his hat-trick after some nice work by Steve Saviano in chasing down the loose puck and finding Shields for the one-timer.
Chris Lawrence scored the Panthers second of the game at 50:51, assisted by Matt Carter and Dan Spang, who then turned from provider to scorer at 59:38, assisted by Deivids Sarkanis and Jeff Brown.