Dundee Stars are eclipsed in Belfast Giants goal-fest
Steve Thornton warned his Belfast Giants players not to expect an easy ride against the Dundee Stars, but that's exactly how things turned out as they finished 2014 on a high.
Five different players scored, with Colin Shields netting three times and both Mike Kompon and Kevin Westgarth bagging a brace as they steamrollered the Stars, beating the Elite League's bottom team 9-3 and in the process recorded their highest scoring victory of the season.
The convincing win puts the Giants into third place in the table and they will now face the Sheffield Steelers, who are three points ahead, in a huge double header at the Odyssey Arena this weekend shooting for top spot.
And if the Giants keep on scoring in the fashion they did last night then there is no reason why they can't hit the front in their bid to retain the title.
It didn't take long for the Giants to click into gear. The first powerplay of the game came their way with just less than three minutes gone and Kompon was on the end of a great passing move to score at 3:23.
Although Paul Swindlehurst put the Stars back on level terms just over a minute later that was merely a temporary situation as the Giants turned it on and had the game effectively won within the first 32 minutes, by which stage they were 6-1 in front.
Indeed just 39 seconds after Swindelhurt's goal, Darryl Lloyd had the puck in the net at the other end, knocking in his 12th goal of the season after Kompon and David Phillips had worked the opening.
Mark McCutcheon and Cody Brookwell both came close to adding to the Giants lead before Evan Cheverie and Calvin Elfring combined to set up Colin Shields for the third at 15:18.
The second period belonged entirely to the Giants as they banged in four goals, with the stunned Stars unable to offer anything in reply.
McCutcheon, whose season has been dogged by injuries, scored just his second league goal of the campaign at 22:44 after collecting a pass from Craig Peacock and finishing past Dundee goaltender Marc Cheverie.
If Dundee had any hopes of mounting a comeback they were killed off when the Giants banged in two stunning goals in the space of a minute.
McCutcheon and Brookwell created the chance for Kevin Westgarth to fire home a superb slapshot at 30:13 and only 56 seconds later Shields ripped a shot in off the underside of the crossbar for his second goal of the game.
Dundee decided that goaltender Cheverie had taken enough punishment for one night and replaced him before play restarted, with Craig Holland coming into the action.
He was beaten with just three seconds of the second period to go when, with Peacock in the penalty box, Shields set up Ray Sawada to score short handed.
At 7-1 up Giants coach Thornton took the opportunity to change his goaltender too, with Andrew Dickson entering the fray and his first task was to scoop the puck out of the back of his net.
Peacock had only just returned to the ice when Kevin Quick fed Sean Ringrose and he gave the Stars a dream start to the final period with a goal just 33 seconds in.
It turned from 7-2 to 8-2 very quickly though as Shields completed his hat trick at 41:09, finishing a one-on-one after being set up by Jeff Mason.
The Giants were unable to score during a five-on-three powerplay before Quick scored his second of the game at 47:17, but it was already too little, too late for Dundee.
Westgarth took his tally for the night to two as well with another fine slapshot at 56:46 to pile even further agony on the Stars.