With seven games remaining in the Elite League title chase the Belfast Giants did what they had to do last night and beat a Hull Stingrays side that looked like they’d arrived at the Dundonald Ice Bowl for no other reason other than fulfilling the fixture.
The 9-0 score line didn’t flatter Steve Thornton’s side one little bit as they started the final month of the season knowing they probably have to run the table to stand any chance of overhauling the Coventry Blaze at the top of the table.
The gap closed to three points after last night’s victory but the Giants have played a game more.
They took a little time to find their stride but once Pat Bateman had dragged the puck to his back-hand and finished neatly at 6:45 the game was over as a contest, the only question was how hard did the Giants want to try, not to run the score up.
Bateman had his second of the game before ten minutes were on the clock taking the puck off the stick of Jeffrey Szwez but the big forward got his reward with a nice wrist shot on the powerplay at 17:22.
The Giants would notch three more goals in the middle period. Evan Cheverie, also with the man advantage, Pierre-Luc Faubert, with the aid of a goaltending error and Michael Jacobsen, with the aid of nothing more than a skillful finish, were the scorers as Hull offered little resistance.
To complete the perfect symmetry they added three more in the final period.
Sean McMorrow and Craig Peacock added goals seven and eight and the scoring was rounded off as it began with Bateman completing his hat-trick from an assist by Szwez.
Netminder Stephen Murphy recorded the shutout although he’s had tougher nights.
The Giants head to Edinburgh tomorrow for two weekend games with the Capitals, a side that they have a 7-0 record against this season.
In fact the Giants schedule is much the easier on paper compared to the Blaze who face the Sheffield Steelers tonight and the Cardiff Devils tomorrow.
The Giants will need help if they are to force a potential winner-take-all showdown in Coventry on the final night of the regular season but, regardless, with the play-offs to follow, playing well, as they did last night, will remain of greater significance.