Nathan Craze showed that anything Stephen Murphy can do, he can achieve as well as the Belfast Giants back-up goaltender chalked up an impressive shut-out as the team made it seven wins in a row and returned to the top of the Elite League last night.
Murphy kept the Nottingham Panthers out on Saturday and Craze did the same against Edinburgh at the Dundonald Ice Bowl as the Giants moved into first place before a ten-day break in league action.
Coach Steve Thornton gave Murphy the night off and Craze showed that even without the man who is statistically the best goalie in the league at present, the Giants are still strong in that department. The Welshman’s was just one of a number of starring performances, with Tom Walsh grabbing a double in the 4-0 win and Jeff Szwez finding the net for the fourth time in three games since arriving in Belfast last week.
The Giants powerplay hasn’t been anything to write home about this season. Indeed Szwez scored short-handed in Newcastle on Sunday.
Chris Allen was sent to the box for holding with just less than two minutes on the clock and with 42 seconds of the powerplay to go Walsh opened the scoring from Szwez’s assist.
Although the Giants registered 16 shots to Edinburgh’s six in the opening period they couldn’t add to the lead. In fact there was a full 35 minutes between the first and second goals, with Walsh himself doubling the advantage just 87 seconds before the end of the second period, this time Szwez and Evan Cheverie combining to set him up.
Although the Giants were very much on top, the points — and first place in the table — weren’t sealed until the closing stages of the game when two goals in just over three minutes put it beyond the visitors.
Craig Peacock put his name back on the scoresheet after a recent purple patch came to an end. Excellent play from Brandon Benedict and Colin Shields set him up for his eighth goal of the season. Just over three minutes from the end Szwez fired home the fourth to stretch the winning streak to seven games.