Controversy as Giants player banned for three games

Belfast's Spiro Goulakos was knocked to the ice by a flying two-handed punch to the head. Credit: Dean Woolley

Belfast Giants defenceman Spiro Goulakos has been banned for three games, but the Sheffield Steelers player who delivered a flying two-handed punch to his head will only miss one game.

The controversial decision was taken by the Elite League’s Department of Player Safety in the wake of the clash between the two teams over the weekend.

The short-benched Giants side won out 4-3 in their battle with the Steelers in Sheffield on Sunday.

However, as well as Belfast’s dramatic bounce back from two goals down, there were a number of incidents that sparked debate - among them, events leading up to Goulakos and the Steelers’ Colton Fretter both being ejected from the game.

Fretter felt he had been checked from behind by Goulakos, but no call was made by referee Mick Hicks at the time.

The Steelers player then charged towards Goulakos, knocking him to the ice with a flying two-handed punch to the back of the head.

Goulakos was deemed to have “kicked” Fretter, but doubt has been expressed over whether any movement of his skate was intentional or a by-product of being knocked over.

However, following reviews – which included a separate check from behind by Goulakos earlier in the game – the Belfast player has been suspended for three games for kicking.

He will miss the Giants’ clashes with the Braehead Clan, Edinburgh Capitals, and Dundee Stars.

Fretter’s 5+game has been amended to a match penalty for charging, meaning he receives an automatic one-game ban.

Further games can be added by DOPS depending on the seriousness of an incident, or any aggravating factors, but no such decision has been taken.

Fretter will miss the Steelers’ game against Braehead Clan on Friday.

The decision has been the talk of supporters from across the Elite League on social media and Belfast fans certainly feel short-changed, believing that perceived retaliation should be deterred by DOPS.

Concern has also been expressed over the ferocity of Fretter’s actions and the consequences they could have had for Goulakos, who was blind-sided by the punch.

In turn, Steelers fans have pointed in particular to the check from behind by Goulakos which was not called as having inflamed the situation with Fretter.

The Elite League’s DOPS has long been the subject of much debate, with hockey fans often vocal in their calls for greater transparency and an improved standard of refereeing across the board.

The aftermath of the clash between Spiro Goulakos and Colton Fretter. Credit: Dean Woolley