ICE HOCKEY: Belfast Giants climb to second place in Elite League with victory over Sheffield

Craig Peacock of the Belfast Giants celebrates scoring the fifth gaol against the Sheffield Steelers
Craig Peacock of the Belfast Giants celebrates scoring the fifth gaol against the Sheffield Steelers


The Belfast Giants completed their busy holiday schedule with a 6-3 victory over the Sheffield Steelers at the Odyssey Arena on Saturday to finish off a New Year doubleheader sweep of the side that came into the weekend leading the Elite League.

Steve Thornton’s side went 7-1 in the eight games over a 15 span that moved them from fifth to second place in the standings, four points behind Braehead Clan but with two games in hand.

The two victories over Sheffield, played in front of over 10,500 spectators, were the most intense of the season to date and terrific adverts for the sport.

“I think they were great games for the fans and for us as a team they were gut checks wins,” explained Thornton.

“We stuck to our game plan, we got pucks on net and won the battles, got some big saves when we needed them from Carsen Chubak and timely goals. We needed these four points.

“If you’d told me two weeks ago we’d win seven of eight games I’d have bitten your hand off. We want to be there in the heat of the title race and that’s were we are.”

It was three goals in the span of 1:37 in the second period that turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead and the Giants never trailed again.

After Friday night’s tough 5-3 win it didn’t take long for tempers to flare when Ray Sawada’s shot was only half stopped by the Steelers goalie Frank Doyle and as he crashed the net looking for the loose puck, Sawada took out Doyle that led to a scrum and penalties on both sides.

Sawada got an extra two minutes and just as the Giants killed it off at 3:21, a shot from Rod Sarich and redirected past Carsen Chubak by Tyler Mosienko.

The Giants were only behind for 65 seconds as they took advantage of their first powerplay with Colin Shields blasting the puck past Doyle at 4:26 but the Steelers retook the lead through Colton Fretter at 15:53.

The middle period was meandering along before an offensive explosion that all started with a strong shift from Kevin Westgarth after he’d served a dubious penalty.

It started with a blocked shot, included a heavy hit and ended with chaos in the Steelers zone and Craig Peacock tying the game at 2-2 at 33:46.

On the next shift a shot that took a deflection found its way to Darryl Lloyd who slotted the puck into the unguarded net at 34:29 and seconds after Chubak had made a stunning stop the Giants went up ice and Sawada found the 5-hole of Doyle at 35:23.

Just over two minutes later Jason Hewitt banked the puck in off Chubak but there was still time for Peacock’s blast from the left point to round off an extraordinary few minutes at 38:52.

The Giants protected their lead with little alarm in the final 20 minutes and Mike Kompon’s rebound goal at 55:35 rounded off the perfect weekend for the Giants.

They’ll take a break from the league on Tuesday night when they face the Cardiff Devils at the Odyssey Arena in the first leg of the Challenge Cup quarter-final.