Giants still in title hunt as Kyle treble keeps heat on
Belfast Giants 7 Fife Flyers 0
Kyle Baun insists the Belfast Giants are just focusing on themselves after his hat-trick helped them to a thumping 7-0 win over the Fife Flyers at the SSE Arena and keeps the Elite League title race alive for another night.
The Toronto native opened the scoring just 43 seconds into the first period and completed his treble late in the third period to take his tally for the season to 37 goals and ensure that the destination of the league title won't be decided until tonight at the earliest.
With their victory, the Giants improve to 44-13-2 on the season and draw level with the Cardiff Devils at the top of the standings, albeit having played a game more than their rivals.
Belfast could win the Elite League tonight if they were to defeat the Dundee Stars at the SSE Arena in their final game of the regular season (face-off 7pm) and the Devils lost in regulation at home to the Milton Keynes Lightning.
That, however, seems unlikely given the dreadful season the Lightning have endured, plus the fact they will be starting back-up netminder Adam Goss in the game at the Viola Arena.
"I'd be lying if I said (the situation) wasn't (frustrating), but at the same time Keefer has been stressing to focus on ourselves and let's get hot before play-offs," says Baun.
"It's out of our hands, so there's not much we can do other than prepare for play-offs, and we do that by getting the momentum going in the last couple of games, and hopefully we get lucky (and win the title).
"If not then we're at least ready for the play-offs, it's basically a fresh start."
Last night's drubbing of the Flyers did at least ensure the Giants' hopes of winning their first title since 2014 are still alive, on a night where several personal milestones were achieved.
On any other night, Baun's hat-trick would have stolen all of the headlines, but in the same game Kevin Raine scored his first ever goal at the SSE Arena, Lewis Hook ended his lengthy goal drought and netminder Tyler Beskorowany kept his sixth shutout of the season.
Needing a quick start, the Giants couldn't have asked for more, Kendall McFaull's pass tipped on Fife netminder Shane Owen by Patrick Dwyer and Baun was there to stab in the rebound after just 43 seconds.
The hosts' first period dominance was reflected by a 20-9 shot count at the intermission, and 1:54 into the second they struck again.
A brilliant reverse pass from Chris Higgins found Raine skating into the slot and he beat Owen five-hole to double the Giants' lead with a rare strike, only his second in two seasons.
Owen was chased 4:23 into the third period, replaced by back-up goalie Andrew Little after Baun picked the puck out of the air and finished at the back door on the powerplay, with Ricards Birzins in the box for a cross check.
Little's night started as dreadfully as it would end, the new man between the pipes beaten just 32 seconds after entering the game by Hook's first goal since December 28, a shortside snipe from the left circle.
Dwyer grabbed his 30th goal of the season with 7:36 remaining when he tapped in following some great work by Darcy Murphy, before the winger got one of his own on the powerplay to edge closer to the half-century of strikes with 4:10 left.
Then came Baun's treble - which saw three hats chucked onto the ice - the winger slamming one in five-hole from the mid-slot with 3:21 remaining, celebrating with a wide grin.
Beskorowany completed his 17-save shutout with ease, barely tested let alone beaten, and the title race continues.