ICE HOCKEY: Belfast Giants knocked off top spot after defeat

The Stena Line Belfast Giants fell to their first defeat in five games with a 5-3 loss away against the Guildford Flames
The Stena Line Belfast Giants fell to their first defeat in five games with a 5-3 loss away against the Guildford Flames

The Stena Line Belfast Giants fell to their first defeat in five Elite League matches on Sunday night and surrendered their position at the top of the standings to the Nottingham Panthers after going down 5-3 to the Guildford Flames in what was a fourth successive road game.

Adam Keefe’s team, who had beaten Milton Keynes Lightning 6-3 on Saturday night, trailed 5-0 after two periods and a gallant comeback in the final session when they scored three times without reply wasn’t enough to save them from the loss.

The Giants got off to the worst possible start when they conceded after only 59 seconds as Brett Ferguson broke the deadlock after being set up by Liam Stewart, son of veteran crooner Rod.

Calle Ackered made it 2-0 to the hosts six minutes later and things went from bad to worse when Rhett Rachinski added a third goal three minutes into the second session.

Ferguson piled more misery on the visitors when he sent the puck into the net eight minutes later after an assist from Brett Walker, who then made it five on a power-play.

Darcy Murphy pulled one back in the fourth minute of the final 20 and Brendan Connolly further reduced the arrears six minutes later.

David Rutherford made it 5-3 with six minutes left but the Giants were unable to add to their account as the Panthers took over at the top of the table following their 3-0 win over Braehead Clan.

On Saturday, Steve Saviano and Murphy scored two goals apiece as the Giants exacted revenge for an earlier defeat by Milton Keynes.

Former Giant Matt Nickerson put the hosts ahead after just after 83 seconds but Murphy levelled on 11:12 after being set up by Rutherford when his team was on a five-on-three power-play.

Colin Shields got the go-ahead goal early in the second period after an assist from Spiro Goulakos as the Giants led for the first time.

Murphy got his second of the night to make it 3-1 on 26:40 after good work by Ryan Martinelli and Goulakos

Lightning struck back through Danny Kearney six minutes later as just one goal separated the teams going into the final period.

Martinelli made it 4-2 when he finished off an incisive move after Sebastian Sylvestre and Kevin Raine had done the spadework.

Saviano added a fifth goal on 51:13 after Jeff Mason had provided the assist before another former Giant, Jonathan Boxill pulled a goal back with five minutes left.

Milton Keynes withdrew their goaltender near the end but despite the Giants being short-handed after Raine had been binned, Saviano found the empty-net to seal the win after skating the length of the ice