Belfast Giants make it a treble to extend winning run
Three is the magic number for the Belfast Giants.
Kevin Westgarth struck a fantastic hat-trick in a 5-2 win over the Edinburgh Capitals last night to make it a weekend treble for Steve Thornton's team.
After back-to-back wins over Coventry Blaze on Friday and Saturday night, the Giants made it three out of three as they swept aside the challenge from the Capitals, who had lost just once in their previous six games.
The Giants five goals were shared between just two players, with Evan Cheverie scoring twice as the game was effectively won during the second period.
It is now four wins on the trot for the Giants and the run of victories couldn't have come at a better time, with a home-and-away double-header against second placed Braehead Clan this coming weekend before two home battles with league leaders Sheffield - who have a six-point advantage over the Belfast men - the following Friday and Saturday.
The Giants bossed the first period, firing 15 shots at the Edinburgh goal, but only one got past goaltender Tomas Hiadlovsky - and that came just 20 seconds before the first break.
Mark McCutcheon and Craig Peacock worked the opening and Westgarth showed that he is more than just a tough guy when he provided the finish.
Having the lead allowed the Giants to play even more on the front foot and the lead was extended at 23:44 when Colin Shields and Ray Sawada moved the puck and fed Cheverie, who netted his seventh goal of the season.
That goal seemed to spark the Capitals and they cut the Giants advantage in half at 26:23. Defenceman Lukas Bohunicky stepped forward and supplied the pass for player-coach Richard Hartmann to score.
The Giants' two-goal lead was restored within just 26 seconds and it was the same three-man combination who brought about their second goal that created and scored the third, with Cheverie doubling his own personal tally.
Westgarth then joined him on two goals when he was again set up by McCutcheon and Peacock to make it 4-1 at 35:38.
Edinburgh threatened to make the game interesting when they cut the gap to two goals six minutes into the second period.
Bohunicky was involved again, this time linking with Loren Barron and Daniel Naslund's shot beat Giants goaltender Carsen Chubak.
Once again, however, the Giants response was swift - even more swift than it had been after Edinburgh's first goal.
Just 16 seconds after the puck hit the ice again it was the familiar triumvirate of McCutcheon, Peacock and Westgarth who did the business once again, with the former Stanley Cup winner completing his hat-trick with his seventh goal of the season.
Edinburgh called their time-out with just over a minute to go. When play restarted they had pulled Hiadlovsky - a somewhat strange move when they needed to score three goals in the remaining time to even take the game to overtime.
It was far too late for them to turn things around though and the win means the Giants are now set up perfectly for what could be a crucial fortnight in the Elite League title race.
It should be a very exciting Christmas.