Belfast Giants in control of their destiny
Hull Stingrays 2 Belfast Giants 5: Victory over the Hull Stingrays last night has put the destiny of the Elite League title back into the hands of the Belfast Giants.
As the race for the championship enters its final stages, however, the Sheffield Steelers can boast the same scenario.
And that means that Saturday night’s clash between the top two at the Odyssey Arena and a meeting in Sheffield four days later are set up to be massive games.
The Giants, however, must follow up last night’s 5-2 win over the Stingrays by beating them again in Belfast on Thursday — in what is now their match in hand — in order to stay in control.
Hull’s win over the Steelers on Saturday night was a double edged sword for Giants coach Doug Christiansen and his men.
It handed them the opportunity to increase the pressure on Sheffield, but the win also gave an already strong Hull team a boost of confidence.
The Giants really had to fight off their challenge and were out-shot in the second period before scoring twice to win the game.
“We played extremely well to beat Hull and we had to, because it’s a tough place to play,” said Christiansen.
“The two points goes a long way towards us achieving the goals that we have set for ourselves and we can look forward to March now with a lot to play for.
“Everyone was thrilled when we heard that Sheffield had lost on Saturday night.
“For the first time in a while we were in control of our own destiny and we’ve made sure that’s still the case by beating Hull.
“Now if we win all our games we’re league champions, but it’s the same for Sheffield and things are really tight.
“We’re playing well right now and if we can keep that going then hopefully it will help us have some success between now and the end of the season.”
The Giants steamrollered the Edinburgh Capitals 9-0 on Saturday, but were made to work much harder by Hull, despite opening up a 2-0 lead.
Christiansen was increasingly frustrated by his team’s powerplay unit throughout the first half of the season but it’s now clicking and Josh Prudden in the first period and Brandon Benedict in the second both made full use of the Giants having a numerical advantage to score.
Hull responded and levelled the scores through Konstantin Kalmikov and Trevor Read — on a powerplay — while they were on top in the second period.
The teams were on level terms for less than two minutes though as Dan Welch netted his 15th goal of the season to restore the Giants’ lead.
The third period was all Belfast, with the exertions of facing the top two teams in the league inside 24 hours taking their toll on Hull.
Jon Gleed and Mike Hoffman — who had missed a penalty shot in the first period — scored to clinch the win and ensure the title race will have a very exciting conclusion.