Giants are the real thing

The Giants are certainly contenders following the historic victory In Sheffield

 DerrickWalser

Player Coach Derrick Walser

Should there have been any doubts about ‘player-coaches’ performing the task, Derrick Walser must have quelled those doubts. In front of a huge crowd of Belfast fans Walser lead his squad to a 5-2 victory over Sheffield Steelers. It was the first of back-to-back league games in the Sheffield Arena last weekend.

Belfast dominated the Steelers in the opening period after taking a 4-0 lead enthusiastically cheered on, all game long, by a loud home fan base of supporters.

Jackson Whistle #2Jackson Whistle (1) icing for the Rockets 

Belfast rotates their goaltenders but it was Jackson Whistle who was called for net duty in Sheffield. It did not take long for Whistle to cheer the Giants’ opening score. It came from Chris Higgins who slammed a loose puck past Mustukovs in the Steelers’ net after just five and a half minutes of game time, assisted by Michael Forney and Jim Vandermeer.

Belfast Giants v Sheffield Steelers - Elite Ice Hockey League

 

Chris Higgins (68) opens the Giants scoring.

Ervins Mustukovs (35) is beaten again

Michael Quesnele (8) watches the puck beat Mustukovs in the Steeler net

Three minutes later and the Giants doubled their lead. This time it was Michael Quesnele who netted for the Giants, assisted by Blair Riley and Jim Vandermeer.

David Rutherford (91) celebrates scoring against the SteelersDavid Rutherford (91) celebrates scoring the Giants third goal 

If two was OK then why not three? The Giants led by that score after Chris Higgins found David Rutherford in an opportune space in front of the Steelers’ goal. He simply slammed the puck into the net.

David Rutherford (91)

David Rutherford (91) in the right place at the right time

Belfast were on fire netting a forth after David Rutherford scored his second of the game, assisted by Michael Forney and Blair Riley giving the Giants a 4-0 lead at the end of an impressive opening period.

Brandon Benedict (26) scores the Giants 5th goal

Brandon Benedict (26) beats Mustukovs cleanly for Belfast fifth goal

Brandon Benedict has not had that many scoring chances recently, however it was him that made it 5-0 after he finished off an impressive move midway through the second stanza, assisted by player coach Walser.

The Steelers had to regroup and regain some self-belief. They did this by scoring, pulling one back when Fretter redirected Roy’s shot past Whistle in the Giants’ net.

Into the final period and the Steelers had an opportunity to score their second of the game when they were awarded a penalty shot. However Jackson Whistle stood tall and Fretter missed.

However Luke Ferrara made amends when he netted a late consolation goal for the home side when he scored with thirty-six seconds remaining.

Giants fans in Sheffield

Giants fans in Sheffield saluted by the Team after the 5-2 victory 

Soon after, the final hooter sounded to round off a famous night for the Belfast Giants and their supporters. So Saturday’s final score was Sheffield Steelers 2-5 Stena Line Belfast Giants and the Giants’ Man of the Match was #91 David Rutherford

The burning question was, could the Giants do it again when they faced Sheffield again on Sunday? In short yes they could.

Belfast achieved a double whammy over their archrivals Sheffield with a 5-4 away win against the Steelers on Sunday. The win sees the Giants take four points from a possible four following Saturday’s 5-2 defeat of the Steelers and the Giants’ chase for the Elite League title continues.

Steve Saviano (13) smilingSteve Saviano (12) 

It took two goals from Giant Steve Saviano who scored in the last minutes of the game. This proved to be the crucial difference in an end-to-end clash in Sheffield Arena. Again, special mention must go to the large number of Giants’ fans who packed the away end in Sheffield. They too made the crucial difference albeit off-ice.

Stephen Murphy was a busy ma in the Giants goalStephen Murphy (31) back in the heat of the action 

Stephen Murphy started in net for the Giants and was called into immediate action as the Steelers set out to avenge Saturday’s home defeat, outshooting the visitors 13-10 in the opening period.

Sheffield took the lead just inside four minutes when Steelers’ Luke Ferrara scored his second goal of the weekend, assisted by Hared Hagos and Jonathan Phillips.

It only took another five minutes until the Steelers had doubled their lead. This time it was Mathieu Roy who scored, assisted by Markus Nilsson and Colton Fretter, as the hosts took control of this league game.

Belfast Giants v Sheffield Steelers - Elite Ice Hockey League

Colin Shields (19) get the Giants rolling

However the Giants showed their grit, and responded almost immediately as Colin Shields hammered the puck past Mustukovs midway through the opening period. Shields’ goal came on the powerplay thanks to an inch perfect pass from behind the net by Alex Foster.

Blair Riley (25) watches the uck fly by Mustekovs (33)Blair Riley (25) tips Vandermeer shot past Mustukovs 

If the first period belonged to Sheffield the second period turned the tables. Jim Vandermeer’s shot on goal deflected into the path of Blair Riley who slammed the puck into the roof of the Steelers’ net to tie the score 2-2.

Giants celebrate David Rutherford' s (91) goal

David Rutherford (91) nets again for the Giants

But wait, the Giants were not finished yet as they scored the ‘go-ahead’ goal on their second powerplay strike of the game. James Desmarais skated with the puck into the Sheffield zone and held off a few Steelers to dish the puck to the back post where David Rutherford was waiting to fire home.

In the third period Levi Nelson equalized for the Steelers when his cool backhanded finish found the net after the puck had rebounded off one of the Giants’ skates.

Stephen-Murphy

Stephen-Murphy

Belfast then got into penalty difficulties and the team were called into penalty killing duty. Stephen Murphy rose to the occasion in the Giants’ net as the team killed off the Steelers’ power plays.

Steve Saviano(12) watches puck into the Steelers netSteve Savinao (12) watch puck slide by Mustukovs 

The Giants then worked their way into the lead once again when Steve Saviano pounced on a loose puck in the Steelers’ zone to fire home the break through score assisted by James Desmarais and Colin Shields.

Stena Line Belfast Giants V Fife Flyers in the Elite Ice Hockey LeagueSteve Saviano (12) celebrates a goal

Ninety four seconds later and the Belfast side had extended their lead to 5-3. It was Steve Saviano once again who netted for Belfast when James Desmarais unselfishly off-loaded the puck for the Giants’ score.

 The home side piled on the pressure against the Giants in a late attempt to get back into the game. With fifty-seven seconds to go, they were back to within one goal. Yarod Hagos bundled the puck into the Giants’ net with minder Mustukovs pulled for the extra attacker.

 The Steelers’ fourth goal set up a frantic finale, however the Giants weathered the storm in order to claim a 5-4 win and a second important win in as many nights in Sheffield.

The Giants will now take a brief break from league action when they face the Cardiff Devils on Wednesday 1st February in the first leg of the Challenge Cup Semi-Final. Face-off is on Wednesday in Wales at 7:30 PM.

Next weekend the Giants travel to Scotland for back-to-back away games against the Braehead Clan on Saturday and against the Edinburgh Capitals on Sunday.

So the final score was Sheffield Steelers 4-5 Stena Line Belfast Giants and the Giants’ Man of the Match was #12 Steve Saviano.

Paul Thompson reading the riot actSheffield’s Head Coach Paul Thompson 

In post game comments Sheffield’s Head Coach Paul Thompson was complimentary about the Giants. He said that they were a great team, that the Steelers had been ‘asleep’ in the opening period in the 2-5 loss to the visiting Belfast squad.

Individual errors had given the opening period to the Giants but he was proud of his team’s commitment to playing for the full sixty minutes. He wanted the opening game in the back-to-back contests’ loss to sting the memories of the Steeler’s players mind and to come back to Sunday’s game to reverse the result.

Thompson got that desired effort in the opening period in Sunday’s encounter but then it fell apart. He stated that the Giants were the better team. Sheffield had coughed up ten goals – seven of which Thompson thought gifted Belfast the win.

Coach Paul Thompson’s blunt words on Steeler’s TV summed up a difficult weekend for the Steelers, “We were not good enough. Simple as that”. Our penalty kill was poor at best and the powerplay just didn’t work however the Giants’ did. We can’t run away and hide but face the facts – like practice what we do to win games, and it’s as simple as that”.

Belfast Giant commentator Wayne Hardman at work Written by Wayne Hardman

 Photographs by Dean Woolley

 Elite Ice Hockey League Standings 2016/17
After Games of 29/1/17                  
  GP Regulation OT/PS OT/PS Regulation PTS   Current  
    Wins Wins Losses Losses     Streak  
                   
Cardiff

36

21

5

3

7

55

 

2 wins

 
Belfast

37

20

5

4

8

54

 

4 wins

 
Sheffield

35

19

3

3

10

47

 

2 losses

 
Nottingham

34

15

3

4

12

40

 

1 win

 
Braehead

38

17

1

3

17

39

 

1 loss

 
Fife

35

15

3

2

15

38

 

2 losses

 
Manchester

35

14

1

4

16

34

 

2 wins

 
Coventry

38

10

4

3

21

31

 

1 loss

 
Dundee

36

8

4

4

20

28

 

1 win

 
Edinburgh

34

9

2

1

22

23

 

2 losses

 

 

 

 Gardiner Conference Standings 2016-2017
After games of 29/1/17              
  GP Regulation OT/PS OT/PS Regulation PTS   Current  
    Wins Wins Losses Losses     Streak  
                   
Braehead

23

16

0

1

6

33

 

1 loss

 
Manchester

24

10

1

3

10

25

 

2 wins

 
Fife

22

10

1

2

9

24

 

1 loss

 
Dundee

20

6

2

2

9

19

 

1 win

 
Edinburgh

21

6

2

0

13

16

 

1 loss

 

 

 

 Erhardt Conference Standings 2016-2017
After games of 29/1/17              
  GP Regulation OT/PS OT/PS Regulation PTS   Current  
    Wins Wins Losses Losses     Streak  
                   
Belfast

23

11

4

2

6

32

 

4 wins

 
Cardiff

21

11

2

3

5

29

 

1 win

 
Sheffield

23

11

1

2

9

26

 

2 losses

 
Nottingham

21

8

2

3

8

23

 

1 win

 
Coventry

24

2

4

3

15

15

 

4 losses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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