The Belfast Giants have taken a home win over Manchester Storm and will be hoping they can now continue to lift themselves out of a goal-scoring slump.
The Giants went into the weekend’s action having lost their last five games across all competitions.
While that did include two outings against tough European competition, playing in the Champions Hockey League against the Swedish former tournament winners Luleå, the poor run caused concern.
In domestic action, taking just a point from two clashes with Glasgow Clan saw the Giants squeak through to the next round of the Challenge Cup – which they have won the last two years in a row.
It also saw the defending Elite League champions languish well down the table.
With all that in mind, the Giants headed into their first encounter of the weekend with the Storm, hosting the Manchester side at the SSE Arena on Saturday night.
They also marked a major milestone for veteran ice hockey player Mark Garside, who reached 500 games in what is his testimonial season.
But then, despite taking an early lead by opening the scoring with a cheeky shorty from an exuberant Bobby Farnham, the hosts fell foul of the same problem that has been plaguing them – often dominating play, out-shooting their opponents, but just not getting on the scoreboard.
The Giants ended up 3-2 down in the second period, with the Storm scoring twice in under a minute.
That saw netminder Shane Owen replaced by Stephen Murphy – who would go on to produce some huge saves in a game that ended up tied at 3-3 after regulation.
Sudden death overtime couldn’t split the sides and it took a penalty shootout for the Storm to take the win and the extra point.
Amid more rumblings of discontent from the Belfast fanbase, the Giants were back trying to weather the storm on Sunday afternoon, with Murphy getting the start in nets.
But after a scoreless opening period, it was the travelling Manchester side that broke the deadlock with a goal from Zack Sullivan.
However, Giants captain Matt Pelech beat Storm netminder Matt Ginn five-hole to level things up before the second intermission.
While the Storm had a golden chance to go ahead in the second period, Murphy stopped their penalty shot to keep things on an even keel.
It then fell to Jordan Smotherman to give the hosts the lead for the first time – and he shored up the win with an empty-netter late in the third, with just 44 seconds left on the clock.
The 3-1 win snaps that losing streak for the Giants, ahead of them heading back into home action again on Friday night, when they will host the Dundee Stars.