Belfast Giants get another raw deal from referees
Two crucial moments, two weeks apart, could shape the Belfast Giants’ destiny four months from now.
Blaming referees for defeats is not in coach Doug Christiansen's nature. There is, however, no disputing that Elite League officials have impacted greatly on the Giants’ title challenge.
When two linesmen fell on top of Benoit Doucet, causing his cruciate ligament to tear and ruling him out for the season, it was always going to be a big blow to the team.
Those who are left behind have to fight that little bit harder in the absence of their most effective team-mate and, so far, they have stepped up to the plate.
In Sheffield on Friday night the fighting spirit in the Giants team was there for all to see — although not literally, like the weekend before. And while the team went on to win 3-1 in Fife on Saturday evening, it was the game 24 hours earlier that dominated the weekend.
Leading 1-0 from the 13th minute to the very last the Giants were good value for two points against the Steelers only for things to turn and two major talking points to crop up.
First, the equalising goal 42 seconds from the end, scored by Ashley Tait, but with an alleged hand-pass in the build-up.
Nothing needed to be alleged about the overtime winner. Jeff Legue was clearly offside and the referee Andy Carson and his linesman got a big decision clearly wrong.
The Sky Sports cameras don’t lie.
What happens between now and the end of March will determine just how much bearing that will have on the title race.
“The Belfast Giants — more so than anyone in the league — know the value of a single point after we fell short by just that in the last two seasons,” said Christiansen.
“Friday night's game was one of the few losses I've had as a coach that I was still angry well into the next day.
“Myself and the players weren't able to get over the loss of a valuable point, but they responded so well in Fife, especially with five players missing.
“We've lost Benoit Doucet for the season and that will cost the Belfast Giants thousands of pounds. Two weeks later we have a game like Friday night and and you don't want the lasting impression on our players being the referees and what happened in those games.
“One of the benefits of our sport being on national television — or a silver lining if you like — is that we can showcase the product and it allows people to see what is good and what can be improved.
“The referees are part of that.”
Christiansen revealed that neither Sheffield coach Ryan Finnerty nor referee Carson had spoken to him after the game.
Without Doucet, Robert Dowd, Aaron Clarke, Darryl Lloyd and George Awada on Saturday, the Giants had to grind out a win in Fife, given to them through goals from Jeff Mason, Tom Dignard and Ryan Crane after Steve McAlpine had scored for the Flyers.
Now the Giants must make sure that the point lost in Sheffield isn't looked back on as costly when the title is decided.