Sheffield Steelers 1 Belfast Giants 3
Almost there. The Belfast Giants are so close to the Elite League title they can almost touch it.
A 3-1 win over Sheffield Steelers, which was more convincing that the scoreline suggests, has moved the Giants to the brink of retaining the crown.
A powerplay goal from Mark Cooper followed by a JJ Piccinich double put the Giants into a comfortable lead before the game had reached its halfway point and Tanner Eberle’s third-period strke was all that the Steelers could muster in return.
Adam Keefe’s men were the last official champions back in 2019, now one more win will see them lift the trophy once again.
The problem is that the team standing in their way is the Steelers, with the teams meeing in the second instalment of their weekend double header in Sheffield tonight.
For them it is do or die as only a win will keep their title hopes alive and with that being the case they are sure to come out fighting.
If, however, the Giants can produce another performance like this one then the champagne corks are sure to pop.
On the front foot right from the off, the Giants were inches away from opening the scoring in the first couple of minutes when they rang Rok Stojanovic’s pipes.
The early dominance didn’t take long to pay off though.
Jordan Boucher had a big chance to score only to be impeded by Justin Hodgman as he shot. The Steelers forward was sent to the box for tripping and 14 seconds into the powerplay Cooper fired home from the slot to give the Giants a wonderful start with just 6.33 on the clock
It got even better very quickly, with a wonderful counter-attack goal at 8.41. Scott Conway rushed the puck up the ice after Tyler Beskorowany had made a save, crossed the blueline and sent it left to right on David Goodwin’s stick and when he fired it back across the face of goal Piccinich was there to net at the backdoor.
Sheffield come out strongly at the start of the second period, their speed helping them to spend a lot of time in the Giants zone and former Giant Robert Dowd twice tested Beskorowany.
Missing those opportunities proved costly when the Giants struck a third goal bang on the 28-minute mark – and it was one the Steelers will feel they could have prevented.
Stojanovic saved from David Goodwin and when his defencemen failed to clear Piccinich raced on to the puck and smashed it home from just outside the hash marks.
Rocked by that, the Steelers threw everything forward, Evan Mosey coming close before they finally got one back three minutes into the third period when Hodgman pulled a pass to Kevin Schulze, he in turn found Eberle in front of the net and he squeezed the puck past Beskorowany.
Goodwin was denied by a fine save from Stojanovic, and the Steelers pulled their goaltender with a full two and a half minutes left on the clock.
Keefe called a time out to settle his team and they managed to see out the game for victory.
Now one more will do – and if it doesn’t come tonight then stand by for a big night in Belfast on Friday when the visitors just happen to be a certain team from Sheffield.