Belfast Telegraph

Murphy helps to blunt Steelers as Giants' fine start continues

Sheffield Steelers 0 Belfast Giants 2

By Stuart McKinley

Both Belfast Giants goaltenders played key roles in clocking up a combined shut-out to help the team claim a second victory over the Sheffield Steelers in as many nights.

Stephen Murphy led the way, repelling 24 shots during 53 minutes on the ice and when he had to be replaced because of an injury, Jackson Whistle - who had only been beaten once in the Giants 3-1 win at the SSE Arena on Saturday night - saw the job through with a couple of notable stops to secure a 2-0 victory.

A second-period goal from Colin Shields had put the Giants in the driving seat, but after having to rely on their penalty killing unit to keep the score at 1-0, Adam Keefe's men only made sure of the win when Darcy Murphy struck an empty-net goal with just four seconds left on the clock.

The dramatic finale to the game, which saw Whistle replace Murphy, Steelers forward Colton Fretter ejected from the game before coach Paul Thompson was sent from behind the bench and the Giants score the clinching goal, was in contrast to a lacklustre opening to the game.

The fact that both sets of players had to make the journey from Belfast across to Yorkshire on game day may have played a part in that, with the teams only able to muster 13 shots between them in the first period.

While the Giants had more of the play and did ask question of Sheffield goaltender Ervins Mutukovs when John Kurtz and Cole Jarrett tried their luck, probably the best chance of the opening 20 minutes fell to Andreas Valdix, who shot into Stephen Murphy's pads.

Murphy came under pressure early in the second period, saving from Fretter before being taken out while denying Levi Nelson - which earned the Steelers' forward a two-minute stay in the penalty box, along with the Giants Ryan Martinelli, who had taken exception to the incident.

A minute after both teams returned to full strength the Giants took the lead.

The Sheffield defence tried to clear the puck, but Shields picked it out in mid air, swiped his stick at it and sent it flying into the net past the grasp of Mustukovs.

The Giants had to be strong as penalties against Spiro Goulakos, Cole Jarrett and John Kurtz had the penalty killers working overtime and Murphy made a great save to prevent Ben O'Connor from equalising.

The Giants couldn't score on a short powerplay - only their third of the game as opposed to the Steelers seventh - and they then lost Goulakos for the rest of the game after a checking from behind offence.

As the Steelers pushed for a goal Fretter had a coming together with Murphy and when referee Stephen Hogarth threw the Sheffield man out of the game the home crowd and coach Thompson were enraged.

Murphy wasn't able to continue, but Whistle wasn't about to let his colleague's good work be undone as he stood tall under Sheffield pressure, despite the home side having to kill the five-minute penalty awarded against Fretter.

With the teams back at full strength, Sheffield pulled Mustukovs with 45 seconds to go, but it was the Giants who got the goal, Murphy stealing the puck in his own zone and sending it into the net to make sure of the win and give the Giants a third win in four Elite League games to keep their bright start going.

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