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Jim Vandermeer signing can help lift the Belfast Giants after loss

By Stuart McKinley

Published 03/02/2016

The Belfast Giants have pulled off a major coup by signing former NHL defenceman Jim Vandermeer.

The arrival of the man who played more than 450 games in 'The Show' may, however, come too late to prolong the team's Elite League title ambitions.

The Sheffield Steelers inflicted more heartbreak on the Giants by winning 2-1 in overtime at the SSE Arena last night - the sixth time in seven meetings this season that the Steelers have been victorious.

Vandermeer isn't due in Belfast until next week, so won't be available when the teams meet again in Sheffield on Saturday.

Last night's result leaves the Giants needing to try to claw back an 11-point gap to league leaders Cardiff with just 13 games to go - although the Devils have only 11 left to play.

The Giants did score first against the Steelers, with Mike Wilson finding the net just after the midway point of the second period.

The teams were level within three and a half minutes thanks to Zack Fitzgerald and it was the Steelers who nicked the extra point with just less than a minute of overtime to go to breathe new life into their own title hopes.

Sheffield were a matter of centimetres away from taking the lead on an early powerplay, when Cullen Eddy fired a shot at Giants goaltender Stephen Murphy. The puck went lose, but stopped on the line and the Giants defence were relieved when it was swept away to safety.

At the other end Brandon Benedict, Wilson and David Rutherford all tried their luck, but found Steelers goaltender Marek Pinc equal to each of their efforts.

Both teams upped the ante in the second period, with the Steelers going closest to opening the scoring when they struck Murphy's pipes before the Giants did break the deadlock at 31:17.

Mitch Ganzak moved the puck to Colin Shields, his fine cross-ice pass picked out Wilson at the far post and with Pinc stranded he had an easy finish.

That led to a period of Giants pressure, but Sheffield were quick to turn it around and Murphy made two great blocks from Mathieu Roy to keep his team in front.

Murphy was finally beaten seconds later when the Steelers levelled at 34:42.

Fitzgerald drove towards the net and when Jason Hewitt threw the puck into the area just in front of the crease, the defenceman forced home just his third goal of the season.

That early penalty against Darryl Lloyd was the only one awarded by referee Stefan Hogarth until the closing minutes of the second period, but the Giants couldn't capitalise after the Steelers were punished for having too many men on the ice and the visitors were also unable to take advantage when Mike Radja's stay in the box straddled the second break.

Murphy made great stops to deny Jeff Legue and Ben O'Connor before Lloyd went through on Pinc only to see a big effort beaten away by the Steelers goaltender.

Former Sheffield man Mike Forney had a great opportunity to win the game as the clock ticked down, but the resolute visiting defence blocked the puck before it could get anywhere near Pinc.

It was all Giants in the opening stages of overtime, with Forney, Kris Beech and Benedict all having shots saved.

The sucker punch came with just 54 seconds left to play when Ganzak lost the puck in the corner and after Murphy had made a save, Steelers captain Jonathan Phillips was on hand to tap home and win the game.

BELFAST GIANTS1

sheffield 2(ot)

Belfast Telegraph

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