Belfast Giants bounce back to turn tables on Sheffield Steelers
BELFAST Giants coach Adam Keefe was delighted at the response to Friday night's 3-2 home loss to the Sheffield Steelers as his team turned the tables with an emphatic 5-1 win over the Yorkshire side at the SSE Arena 24 hours later.
The Giants were down two players through suspension due to the Elite League's new get-tough policy with offenders who breach the disciplinary code.
Spiro Goulakos and Sebastian Sylvestre were both serving bans after being punished for incidents in Friday night's ill-tempered affair.
Goulakos was handed a one-game penalty for a checking offence that saw him ejected while Sylvestre received a two-match ban for abusing the officials
Their absence piled more pressure on a Giants' roster that was already depleted due to the continuing loss of injury victims Dustin Johner, Stephen Murphy and Mark Garside.
However, the men who stepped in, stepped up, much to the delight of Keefe as the Giants cut the gap at the top to five points on defending champions the Cardiff Devils with Saturday's win.
"We only had the sanctions confirmed at 12 o'clock on the day of the game so there were different combinations that we had to look at." Keefe explained.
"But guys like Matt Towe and Ryan Martinelli really stepped up and I was really happy with how everyone performed to a man.
"Ryan made a statement out there and Matt was awesome with his energy and it was nice to see him get some longer shifts than usual.
"But even before the game, I could see that the guys meant business when they walked into the dressing room.
"They were all dolled up in their suits but I could tell they were ready to play and everybody stood up."
The Giants were in the groove from the off and two first period power-play goals inside the space of 21 seconds put them in the driving seat.
Colin Shields broke the deadlock in the 10th minute, assisted by Cole Jarrett and Brendan Connolly before David Rutherford made it 2-0 shortly afterwards, helped by Blair Riley and Darcy Murphy.
Jonathan Ferland added a third goal on 12:54, after being set up by Shields - his 600th point as a Giant- and Connolly.
David Rutherford made it 4-0 shortly before the half-hour mark with Riley and Darcy Murphy creating the opportunity.
Ben O'Connor pulled one back for the Steelers on a power-play with 13 minutes left.
But Shields restored the Giants four-goal advantage with just over a minute remaining when he was left with the simple task of shooting home after a defensive blunder.