The Belfast Giants have missed out on the opportunity to eat into Coventry Blaze’s lead at the top of the Elite League table.
Blaze lost to the Cardiff Devils on Saturday night and the Welsh side had a further say in the title race last night when they beat the Giants 4-1 — after going a goal behind in the opening minutes.
Both Blaze and the Nottingham Panthers fought back from being behind to the Newcastle Vipers and Hull Stingrays last night.
It was a good weekend for the Panthers, who were the only team in the top three to take four points from the weekend and that means they are now locked at the top of the league on 48 points with Coventry, while the Giants are now four points behind the leaders.
The Giants were well aware of the threat that Cardiff posed even before they beat Coventry on Saturday night, but Steve Thornton’s side’s away record now looks even worse than before, with 10 defeats in 17 games and only one win in the last eight on the road.
Games between the Giants and Devils this season have centred around Sean McMorrow and Brad Voth — and this time the battle between two of the big Elite League heavyweights started immediately.
The gloves hit the ice almost before the puck and after an epic battle Voth was hit with 17 minutes worth of penalties, five for fighting, two for instigating and a further 10 minute misconduct penalty. McMorrow only sat for five.
Jay Latulippe joined Voth in the box a couple of minutes later and it was while on that powerplay that the Giants struck first.
Tim Cook and George Awada set up Pat Bateman and he netted for the 20th time this season.
That, however, was as good as it got for the Giants. The lead lasted just over three minutes and from then on it was all Cardiff.
George Awada and Michael Jacobsen were both sent to the penalty box, handing the Devils more than a minute of a five-on-three powerplay and it was 22 seconds before that elapsed when Matt Towe fired home the equaliser.
The game was only 10 minutes old when Cardiff player-coach Gerad Adams put his team into the lead after Tyler Michel and Ryan Finnerty had created the opening. Tom Walsh wasn’t happy with something that went on in the build-up to the goal, but all his arguing did was earn him 10 minutes in the box.
The Devils pounced when presented with another five-on-three early in the second period to pile the pressure onto the Giants.
First Brandon Benedict and then Shane Johnson made their way off the ice. Mark Smith and Max Birbraer swapped passes before Wes Jarvis added the finishing touch.
Cardiff’s fourth also came on the powerplay — although there was only one Giant in the penalty box this time, in the shape of George Awada. Just five seconds after he skated off Smith and Michel provided the pass for Mark Richardson, whose shot hit Giants goaltender Stephen Murphy and then spun over him and into the net.
The Giants have had no such problems at home, but that might not be enough to keep them on the coat tails of Coventry and Nottingham.
Craig Peacock, Bateman and Jeff Szwez netted against the Sheffield Steelers on Saturday night in a 3-2 win at the Odyssey, in one of the few sporting fixtures to go ahead in Northern Ireland.