Giants pass first Steelers test with home win
The Belfast Giants took a 3-1 win over the Sheffield Steelers at home on Saturday, but now look to earn another two points against them on Sunday.
While there are no easy games in the Elite League, the Giants went into Saturday’s encounter knowing that the Steelers – last season’s Playoff champions – would pose a tough test.
The Belfast side were coming off the back of a four-point weekend last time out, but were looking to answers critics pointing to the amount of goals they had conceded.
And keeping the Steelers down to just one goal will go some way towards doing just that.
The Giants got off to good start, opening their goal account after just 32 seconds.
Dustin Johner scored past Ervins Mustukovs in the Steelers’ net, from an assist by Darcy Murphy, to get the home side off and running.
Goal-scoring defenceman Cole Jarrett on hard work paying off
While the Giants had a powerplay opportunity just before their second goal of the night, Sheffield had just returned to full strength when Cole Jarrett fired home.
His goal, from assists by Jim Vandermeer and Sébastien Sylvestre, doubled Belfast’s lead to 2-0 barely halfway through the first period.
And the Giants only surged ahead with goal number three – this time from Sylvestre, assisted by Jonathan Ferland.
The prospect of shutting out a team like the Steelers for too long seemed unlikely though and, sure enough, Levi Nelson got his name on the scoresheet to make it 3-1.
That was to be it as far as goals were concerned, but there was still plenty of action.
Both sides managed to pile on the pressure in the second period, and a couple of big saves from Giants netminder Jackson Whistle helped prevent the Steelers further cutting the goal deficit.
Sylvestre had racked up two goals in each of the Giants last two games, and there was a good chance for him to do the same when he ended up going one-on-one with Mustukovs early in the third.
There was to be no way through this time though.
Tempers flared late on when the Steelers’ Andreas Valdix checked Jim Vandermeer from behind and his Giants teammate Kevin Raine took exception.
Both players ended up with penalties for roughing from referee Tom Darnell, while Valdix also took a 2+10 for the initial check.
With less than two minutes to go and a mountain still to climb, the Steelers pulled Mustukovs for the extra skater – and Belfast tried to go for the empty-netter.
While they missed out on a bonus fourth goal, they had done enough to secure the win and the crucial two points.
As head coach Adam Keefe said after the game, the job is only half done though.
The Giants now aim to continue their winnings ways when they travel to Sheffield on Sunday to take on the Steelers in their home barn.
Giants head coach Adam Keefe on a good result for his side