Play-offs are last hope for Belfast Giants
Coventry Blaze 2 Belfast Giants 7: A four point weekend wasn’t enough for the Belfast Giants to rescue their Elite League title hopes.
Doug Christiansen’s men did everything in their power to put pressure on the Cardiff Devils and Sheffield Steelers on the final night of the regular season with Saturday night’s 6-2 win over the Nottingham Panthers.
The Devils and Steelers both held their nerve with flawless records over the weekend too though and Sheffield’s 7-2 thrashing of Braehead Clan last night means that they are champions for the second time in three seasons.
While the Giants’ 7-2 win over Coventry Blaze last night had no impact on the race for the title, Christiansen’s players will have a psychological edge when the teams meet again in the Play-off quarter-finals next weekend.
And young Great Britain internationals Mark Garside and Craig Peacock took their chance to impress national team coach Paul Thompson by scoring braces.
The Giants had needed both the Devils and Steelers to lose a game in order to have any chance of bringing the league title back to Belfast, but neither gave up any ground and with one point less than their two rivals the Giants finish the season in third place, with Cardiff second after winning 9-2 in Edinburgh last night.
Although the Giants were mathematically still in the hunt, Cardiff were never going to lose to an Edinburgh team that hasn’t won this year and has been understrength since Christmas.
That meant the trip to Coventry was all but academic, but there was no sign of the Giants taking a night off.
A powerplay goal after 14 minutes gave them the lead, with Brandon Benedict netting his 10th goal of an injury interrupted campaign.
Greg Owen then pulled one back a couple of minutes later on another powerplay.
The Giants took control of the game with two goals in the second period — although there was less than five minutes left before the hooter when Garside scored his first of the night. Peacock then netted 64 seconds from the end of a period that the Giants dominated, firing 18 shots on the Coventry goal.
Greg Owen’s goal five minutes into the third period only served as a wake-up call for the Giants, who powered to victory with a further three goals in less than 10 minutes.
Scotsman Garside scored his 14th of the season a minute after Owen’s marker after being set up by Kaspars Astasenko.
Josh Prudden struck with nine minutes to go and Peacock then took his goal tally for the season to a hugely impressive 26.
A late powerplay saw Dan Welch net the seventh with just 17 seconds to play.