Belfast Giants 4 Braehead Clan 2: Doug Christiansen and his Belfast Giants players raised a glass to toast a ‘double Scotch’ last night.
Back-to-back home wins — over the Dundee Stars on Saturday and last night’s victory against Glasgow’s Braehead Clan — saw the Giants stretch their lead at the top of the Elite League table to four points.
The 6-4 triumph over Dundee was hard fought, literally, with Colin Shields, Craig Peacock and Brett Hemingway all dropping the gloves as the Stars attempted to bully the Giants in the absence of tough guy Mike Hoffman.
Shields and Hemingway claimed the distinction of recording what is known in ice hockey as a ‘Gordie Howe hat-trick’ by seeing a goal, an assist and a fight recorded against their names on the game sheet.
Last night was a battle of a different kind, as it wasn’t until the late stages of the game that the Giants saw off the Clan challenge to stay well in front of the chasing pack.
As Christiansen pointed out before the weekend games, it’s not a phenomenal position and it’s more important to be at the top come the end of the season, but irrespective of the time of year, it’s where every other team in the league would like to be.
Jeff Mason returned to the line-up after injury and helped himself to three goals in two games, including the empty net strike which made sure of two points last night.
It was Brad Smyth who threatened to steal the show though, with two first period goals that laid the foundations for victory.
He struck first with just six minutes gone, firing home after Josh Prudden and Mike Bayrack had created the opportunity.
The lead lasted less than five minutes though as Braehead showed why they have claimed quite a few creditable results in this their inaugural season.
Graeme Walton was off the ice for hooking as Dominic Noel netted the equaliser on a powerplay.
It wasn’t until just over a minute from the end of the second period that the Giants edged in front again on a powerplay of their own as Smyth doubled his tally for the night.
The Giants were also on a powerplay when Braehead equalised again two minutes into the final period, Brendan Cook racing away unassisted to net short handed.
It was still anybody’s game at this stage, although the Giants had fired 29 shots on the Clan goal in the opening two periods, with just 17 on Stephen Murphy in return.
Hemingway put the Giants in front for the third time with little more than two minutes left on the clock, but the points were still in the balance as Braehead pulled goaltender JF Perras and with him off the ice Mason made sure of the win with just 22 seconds remaining.