Belfast Giants still to the four
Belfast Giants 1 Sheffield Steelers 2
Steve Thornton is refusing to give up on the Belfast Giants pursuit of the Grand Slam.
With two cup semi-finals to look forward to and the Play-offs to come at the end of the season, it was the Elite League title the Giants were focusing on last night.
And they saw hopes of taking that crown for the first time since 2006 suffer a serious set-back with defeat to the Sheffield Steelers at the Odyssey last night.
The Steelers moved nine points clear of the chasing pack — ten ahead of the Giants — as they fought back from a goal down to score twice in the final period to clinch victory.
That leaves Thornton’s men with an uphill task of trying to overhaul Sheffield with 19 games of the campaign to go.
“We are still going for four trophies; it’s not going to be straightforward after losing this game, but we’re still a good team,” said Thornton.
“As far as the league is concerned now we’re going to have to start relying on other teams to beat these guys and at the same time win our own games.
“That’s the hardest pill to swallow after this game.
“I said the last time that Sheffield beat us here that it was the toughest defeat of the season and it’s even tougher this time.
“When you are 1-0 up going into he third period at home you have to find a way to win the game.
“We didn’t and Sheffield have found a way to squeeze out wins from tight games all season.”
The Giants battered Jody Lehman’s goal, with 15 shots in each of the first two periods, but only one made its way past him, with Bobby Robins opening the scoring three minutes into the second period while Joey Talbot sat out a holding penalty.
Although one goal is rarely enough, the Giants looked under little pressure in the second period and they entered the final 20 minutes with hope of getting the win that would close the gap at the top of the table.
Brad Cruikshank levelled the scores five minutes into the final period, with Stevie Lyle failing to get his hand behind the shot as the puck squeezed into the top corner of the net.
Just when overtime loomed, with the Giants looking for a winner that would deny Sheffield even a losing point, David Phillips was sent to the penalty box and Ryan Finnerty grabbed the powerplay winner.