Thornton seals comeback for Belfast Giants
Sheffield Steelers 3 Belfast Giants 4
The Belfast Giants pulled off a remarkable comeback in Sheffield last night to set pulses racing in an exciting climax to the Elite League title race.
Less than two weeks ago the Steelers put a dent in the Giants challenge with a 3-2 win at the Odyssey Arena.
Steve Thornton’s side have responded with four straight wins, culminating in last night’s triumph in Yorkshire which had looked unlikely halfway through the final period.
Paul Deniset’s late goal took the game into a five-minute sudden-death period and it was then that Thornton himself put his team right back in the hunt to be crowned champions with the all important winning strike.
The Steelers still lead the pack, but after taking just two points from overtime defeats over the weekend and now with 20 games to go they are very much there to be shot at.
And with the Giants having a game in hand and two more meetings with Dave Matsos’ men, the six-point advantage the Steelers hold over the Belfast men means absolutely nothing.
The Steelers had stormed in front early on, taking advantage when Evan Cheverie was sent to the penalty box just a minute into the game to take the lead on the powerplay.
On 13 minutes they doubled the lead when Rob Dowd fired home after being set up by Randy Dagenais to rock the Giants.
Two goals in just over three minutes changed things though and the Giants were back in the game.
Bobby Robins sparked things off when he reduced the arrears on 16 minutes and then, on a Giants powerplay, the scores were levelled when Cheverie atoned for his earlier misdemeanour by netting for the 17th time this season.
Getting back onto level terms allowed the Giants to take the sting out of the game and play like away teams want to, quietening the crowd and minimising mistakes which might let in the opposition.
They did get in a couple of minutes before the end of the second period when Joe Talbot put the Steelers back in front after he was set up by Brad Cruickshank.
That looked like being the signal for Sheffield to go on and win but the Giants had other ideas.
They fired shot after shot at Jody Lehman who, as arguably the best goaltender in the league, was equal to them all until Deniset finally broke his resistance with seven minutes to go.
Neither team could find a winner, which meant overtime and although the Steelers ended up with a point, Thornton will be delighted that his goal gave the Giants two in order to eat into Sheffield’s lead.