Belfast Giants 4-1 Braehead Clan: Giants crush Clan to stretch lead at the top
The Belfast Giants will head to Glasgow tonight with an opportunity to go 11 points clear at the top of the Elite League table.
And they will do so with a psychological advantage having beaten the Braehead Clan 4-1 at the Odyssey Arena in the first part of their post-Christmas double header.
Their victory in the first v second battle has given the Giants a nine point lead over the Clan and with tonight's visit to Braehead and a home match with the Hull Stingrays to come before the end of 2013 they can stretch the lead even further before New Year.
Although former Giant Matt Towe opened the scoring for the Clan in the first period they were quickly pegged back by Jeffrey Szwez.
Dustin Whitecotton and Evan Cheverie struck twice in the second period before Craig Peacock completed the scoring in the final minute.
While Towe's strike at 9:25 lifted the Clan, it didn't adversely affect the Giants and within little more than three and a half minutes they were level when Whitecotton set up Szwez to score his 15th goal of the season.
A powerplay early in the second period put the Giants on the front foot. They rained the shots in on Braehead goaltender Kyle Jones and although there were some instances of panic among his defence they almost turned the tables when Kenton Smith skated out of the box and straight onto the puck, with Stephen Murphy having to be at his best to make the save.
Murphy produced more heroics a couple of minutes later when a pass from the left wing found Neil Trimm skating in at the far side of the net. It seemed that all he had to do was was make some kind of contact with the puck to score, but somehow his shot hit Murphy and stayed out.
The Giants forwards then did their job as they took a 3-1 lead with two goals in just over six minutes.
Calvin Elfring did some great work on the puck in the offensive zone to set up Whitecotton to give the Giants the lead at 32:59.
Some fans in the arena thought the Giants had scored again when the puck landed on top of the net. Within seconds it was in the back of the net instead as Szwez swept it off the top and Cheverie turned and flicked it past Jones.
It could have been 4-1 in the final seconds of the second period when Darryl Lloyd played a wonderful pass through the defence towards Chris Higgins, but he produced an airshot with only Jones to beat.
The third period was an intense physical battle, with Lloyd taking the bigger hits and the consequence of that was that there were few clear cut chances produced.
Braehead pulled Jones with a minute to go in an attempt to take the game to overtime, but as he skated off the ice Peacock picked up the puck just in front of his own net and sent a shot the full length of the ice and into the goal at the other end.