Belfast Giants 1 Sheffield Steelers 2: The Belfast Giants’ 100 per cent home record was ruined by the Sheffield Steelers last night.
And the Yorkshire men have set up an opportunity to do the double over Doug Christiansen’s side when the teams go head-to-head in the Odyssey Arena again this evening.
It wasn’t for the want of trying though, as the Giants fired 39 shots on Ervins Mustukovs in the Steelers goal, with Sheffield having only 19 in return.
The statistic that mattered most though is that the Giants scored just once, through Jeff Mason and that Jerramie Domish and Ashley Tait replied to give the Steelers the victory.
There had been eight games and eight victories at the Odyssey the season before last night, but the fortress has now been breached and with the third placed Steelers four points adrift with four games in hand and Nottingham, three points behind in second, now having played three games left, there is a real fight for top spot.
The Giants are now vulnerable and that makes tonight’s game a must-win to give themselves the best chance of holding onto first place through December.
An early powerplay opportunity presented itself to the Giants when Tait was sent to the penalty box in the opening minute.
There was no way past Mustukovs though and the Steelers held on.
The goal that the Giants had threatened arrived 12 minutes into the game.
Mason has been on fire since returning from injury a fortnight ago and he continued that form when he collected to puck in front of goal after being set up by Mike Bayrack and Brad Smyth and fired home.
The lead lasted less than six-and-a-half minutes before the Steelers took full advantage of their second powerplay opportunity to level matters.
Graeme Walton was off the ice — deemed to have been guilty of holding — and Sheffield defenceman Domish skated forward to score.
The Steelers had finished the first period in the ascendancy, but they weren't able to carry that into the second period, which was littered with penalties — including one which earned Sheffield’s Rod Sarich a 10-minute penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Giants, however, weren’t able to take advantage of any of the three powerplay opportunities that came their way.
Their failure to turn shots into goals proved costly nine minutes from the end when Tait fired the winner.
The Giants pulled Stephen Murphy with a minute and a half to go, but they weren’t able to make the extra skater count.