Giants ruin the party but Blaze lift title
Coventry Blaze 4 Belfast Giants 6
The Belfast Giants spoilt the title party in Coventry last night to prove they will be a force in the play-offs.
The favour that Steve Thornton’s side had been hoping for from the Edinburgh Capitals didn’t materialise and, having beaten them on home ice on Thursday, Blaze won in Scotland on Saturday evening to claim the Elite League title.
The Giants had hoped that last night’s encounter in Coventry would be a title cliffhanger, only for those aspirations to be killed on Saturday, despite a 6-1 win over the Newcastle Vipers at the Odyssey Arena.
There were six more goals in Coventry last night and the end result is that Blaze are champions by just a single point — which shows just how little there has been between the teams this season.
Anticipating that Coventry may well be in celebratory mode, the Giants came out flying and were 2-0 up within 15 minutes.
Brandon Benedict struck first in six minutes before a short-handed goal from Evan Cheverie while Michael Jacobsen sat a two-minute hooking penalty.
It took Coventry until three minutes before the end of the second period to get onto the scoresheet, through Greg Owen, but the Giants restored the two-goal advantage when Cheverie struck 17 seconds from the end of the second period.
Stung by that and with a determination to give their happy fans a win to sign off the regular season with, Coventry came out on fire in the third period and scored three times in just over five minutes.
First Luke Fulghum netted short handed before a goal from Brian Lee and when Brad Cruickshank scored Blaze led 4-3.
That lasted less than a minute though as Jacobsen scored a powerplay goal to level the scoreline.
By this stage Coventry looked to have given all they had, having enjoyed their moment of victory on Saturday before travelling back from Edinburgh to face the Giants.
Benedict’s second of the night came with eight minutes to go and the victory was sealed by Jeff Szwez — who scored a hat-trick on Saturday — when he netted on a powerplay.
The Giants now face Newcastle again in a two-legged play-off quarter-final this weekend.