Giants restart the comeback for the playoff run and hopefully still chances for Elite League tittle

 

Giants make it a clean sweep netting four vital points over the weekend 25-26 Feb 2017

Derrick Walser (43) against NottinghamPlayer Coach Derrick Walser (43) 

Coach Derrick Walser and Belfast’s Captain Adam Keefe were well aware that the Giants could play better than they had proved over the last few weeks.

Elite Ice Hockey League - Belfast Giants v Braehead Clan

Adam Keefe Giants Captain (47)

Both acknowledged that they ‘awarded’ the Devils with the Elite League trophy for it is now out of the Giants’ hands.

All Belfast can do is win their remaining games in the regular season and hope that the Cardiff Devils trip up on the way. Previously Walser and Keefe had preached that the best approach was to ‘keep it simple’ by playing their game, not the opposition’s.

First up last weekend was the Fife Flyers’ match. They were playing five players short game with their top scorer suspended. Would that make the Giants’ task easier? Probably not.

Steve Saviano (13) smilingSteve Saviano (12) 

Giants’ goals coming from various lines and four from Steve Saviano who helped the Belfast side on their way to an important home victory. In the meantime the Cardiff Devils matched the win keeping Belfast in third place, seven points behind Cardiff as league leaders.

Belfast Giants v Fife Fyers - Elite Ice Hockey LeagueMichael Forney (14) celebrates with Captain Adam Keefe (47) & others after scoring 

Michael Forney opened Belfast’s the scoring with a wrist shot. It  ripped high into the Flyers’ net early in the opening period,  following a great pass into the slot assisted by Adam Keefe.

Belfast Giants v Fife Fyers - Elite Ice Hockey League

Steve Saviano (12) celebrates scoring

Steve Saviano netted his first goal and the Giants’ second with a fine solo goal. Saviano picked up his own rebound and skated around the net to score on a wraparound. The Flyers worked hard doubling their efforts which resulted in them scoring through Sebastien Thinel who bundled the puck past Stephen Murphy after a messy goalmouth scramble.

Elite Ice Hockey League - Belfast Giants v Braehead ClanDavid Rutherford (91) salutes the crowd after the Giants score 

With just nineteen seconds remaining of the opening period, Saviano extended the Giants’ lead after David Rutherford picked out the forward for his second goal of the game, which ended the scoring in the open period.

Fife seemed to come out after the period break fired up for action. They netted first in the second period to bring themselves back to within one goal of Belfast’s position. They scored through Carol Finucci who deflected the puck into the Giants’ net following a shot from Thomas Muir.

Belfast regained their dominance by pulling two goals clear of their opponents once again with less than one minute gone in the final period. James Desmarais passed the puck through the Flyers’ defense to Steve Saviano who again finished well and posted his hat trick on the powerplay.

Belfast Giants v Fife Fyers - Elite Ice Hockey LeagueGiants score again 

New signing Jerome Leduc also proved his worth. He scored for Belfast and restored Belfast’s three-goal advantage with a fierce wrist shot past the disgruntled Owen and into the Flyers’ net.

 

Well if one was good then two was even better. Leduc grabbed his second of the game and his fourth in a Giants’ jersey after both Forney and Higgins battled for the puck around the net to give the defenseman a simple finish.

Steve Saviano #1Steve Saviano (12) whilst icing for VAXJO Lakers 

Steve Saviano netted his fourth of the game in the dying seconds of the game assisted by Derrick Walser and James Desmarais. At last the Giants had returned to winning ways in Belfast.

So the final score was Belfast Giants 7-2 Fife Flyers and not surprisingly the Giants ‘Man of the Match’ was #12 Steve Saviano.

He stated after the game that he was pleased with both the win and his four goals. The best part of the victory was to see the Giants return to success and looking forward to continuing that result in Nottingham on the following Sunday afternoon.

Corey Neilson Panthers Players Coach newCorey Neilson Panther long standing Head Coach 

Pre-game, Corey Neilson stated, “the Giants had the Panthers’ number this season but we (Nottingham) are preparing some new moves in practice this week to try and change the results that Belfast seem to achieve playing us”

Well Belfast still defeated the Panthers 4-3 in Nottingham on Sunday to stay in the hunt for the Elite League title with a four-point weekend. The win was the Giants’ second in as many days following Saturday’s 7-2 home win against Fife.

It looked like Neilson’s new moves were going to pay off when long standing Giants’ nemesis David Clarke fired past Murphy early in the opening period assisted by Dan Spang and Stephen Schultz.

Belfast Giants v Fife Fyers - Elite Ice Hockey League

Blair Riley (25) against Fife controlling the puck

However the Giants seemed to enjoy coming from behind as Blair Riley equalized, assisted by Chris Higgins and Ryan Martinelli with just over five minutes left in the opening period which ended the scoring in the period.

Belfast Giants v Fife Fyers - Elite Ice Hockey League

Matt Towe (74) against Fife

Matt Towe, who is gaining more ice time rewarded the team with the go ahead goal after only eighty two seconds of play in the middle period assisted by David Rutherford and Brandon Benedict.

This second period witnessed more fireworks when Jim Vandermeer dropped the gloves with Brian McGrattan as the two former NHLers went toe-to-toe.

Jim Vandermeer #1Jim Vandermeer (9) in action for Belfast 

That stand-off appeared to spark the Giants further as they extended their lead when James Desmarais netted on the powerplay, assisted by David Rutherford.

Giants James Desmarais (79)

James Desmarais (79) nets for the Giants 

Nottingham was not finished. They dug deep which resulted in Matt Carter pulling one back for the Panthers when the forward netted late in the second period, assisted by Alex Nikiforuk and Chris Lawrence.

Stena Line Belfast Giants V Fife Flyers in the Elite Ice Hockey League

Steve Saviano (212) nets for Belfast

After scoring four goals against Fife one might have thought Saviano’s powder had run out. Think again. Only eleven seconds later Steve Saviano scored on the powerplay to restore the Giants’ two-goal lead.

With a third period push the Panthers seem to excel. They took full advantage of their powerplay and Stevie Lee scored to bring tension to the Giants as the Panthers were once again on the prowl.

Michael Quesnele #1

Michael Quenele (8) nets a goal

Further fireworks developed in the dying minutes of the game as Nottingham upped the pressure on the Giants when Panthers’ Stevie Lee and the Giants’ Michael Quesnele dropped their gloves.

However the Giants rallied in the dying minutes of the contest to complete an impressive victory on the road against the Panthers.

A footnote to the Giants’ victory was Fife’s overtime win over Sheffield to push the Steelers to third place on the same points tally as the Giants. This gives Belfast a glimmer of hope that someone might trip up the Devils in the same way before the end of the season regular season games.

The game ended with the final score Nottingham Panthers 3-4 Belfast Giants. The Giants ‘Man of the Match’ was awarded to #88 Ryan Martinelli.

The Giants return to action again on Saturday 4th March 2017 against the Manchester Storm – face-off 7.00 PM at Belfast’s SSE Arena.

 

 

Photos Credit Karl Denham

 

Written by Wayne Hardman

 

 

 Elite Ice Hockey League Standings 2016/17
After Games of 26/2/17    
GP Regulation OT/PS OT/PS Regulation PTS Current
Wins Wins Losses Losses Streak
Cardiff*

45

27

7

3

8

71

2 wins
Belfast*

45

25

5

4

11

64

2 wins
Sheffield*

45

26

4

3

12

63

1 loss
Braehead*

44

22

1

3

18

49

5 wins
Nottingham

43

18

3

6

16

48

2 losses
Fife

45

17

4

3

21

45

1 win
Manchester

44

15

1

7

21

39

5 losses
Coventry

47

12

6

3

26

39

1 win
Dundee

44

11

4

6

23

36

1 loss
Edinburgh

44

10

5

2

27

32

1 loss

 

*Qualified for Play-Offs (top 8 qualify)

 

 

 Gardiner Conference Standings 2016-2017
After games of 25/2/17
GP Regulation OT/PS OT/PS Regulation PTS Current
Wins Wins Losses Losses Streak
Braehead**

27

20

0

1

6

41

4 wins

Manchester

28

11

1

3

13

27

2 losses

Dundee

26

9

3

3

11

27

1 loss

Fife

27

10

1

3

13

25

6 losses

Edinburgh

26

7

5

0

14

24

2 wins

 

**Gardiner Conference Champions

 

 

 Erhardt Conference Standings 2016-2017
After games of 26/2/17
GP Regulation OT/PS OT/PS Regulation PTS Current
Wins Wins Losses Losses Streak
Cardiff

28

16

3

3

6

41

1 win

Belfast

26

12

4

2

8

34

1 win

Sheffield

26

13

1

2

10

30

1 win

Nottingham

29

11

2

4

12

30

2 losses

Coventry

29

3

4

3

19

17

1 loss

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