Belfast Giants beat Fife Flyers in goalfest but lose to Nottingham Panthers on the road in mixed weekend

Belfast Giants v Nottingham Panthers
It was a mixed weekend for the Belfast Giants who defeated Fife Flyers on Saturday at the SSE Arena but fell to Nottingham Panthers on the road Picture: Panthers Images

It was another mixed bag of a weekend for the Belfast Giants as they hit seven goals past the Fife Flyers in a goalfest at the SSE Arena before suffering a five-goal hammering to Nottingham Panthers the following night at the Motorpoint Arena.

The weekend’s results are reflective of the inconsistency of Adam Keefe’s men this season, who have demonstrated their quality for patches but have regularly struggled to play to their potential across both matches at the weekend.

The results maintain the status quo in league standings with the Giants sitting in third place in the Elite League while, nine points behind second placed Cardiff Devils and trailing runaway league leaders Sheffield Steelers by 23 points.

Given the widening gap between the Giants and the top of the table, it is looking virtually impossible that they will be able to defend their league title.

Having also crashed out of the Challenge Cup pre-Christmas, the focus will now be on the end of season Play-Offs as the only remaining hope to maintain some of last season’s silverware.

Since Halloween, the Giants have been unable to string together more than three wins in a row, with injuries and player turnover throughout the season perhaps partly to blame for inconsistent performances.

The weekend was no different, with an enthralling home win sitting in stark contrast with Sunday’s hammering.

The weekend got off to a good start on a cowboy themed night at the SSE Arena in which Japanese international Kohei Sato was in the thick of the action for his side, scoring three times, assisting once and getting involved in a first period fight.

Teemu Pulkkinen opened the scoring for the visitors shorthanded before Travis Brown levelled for the men in teal.

The back and forth continued in the first period when Johan Eriksson put Flyers back ahead and Daniel Tedesco hit back for the hosts with a fine individual goal to send the teams in tied at the first interval.

Sato put the Giants ahead with a neat backhand finish in the second period and struck again with a solo effort in the third period to give the Giants a two goal-cushion.

The Flyers battled back, however, with Vitalijs Pavlovs cutting the deficit down to one before David Goodwin rifled a shot into the net to restore the two goal deficit.

Sean Giles pulled it back to 5-4 with just over ten minutes remaining but David Goodwin hit back almost immediately and Sato completed his hat-trick to seal the win in an enthralling game which was poised on a knife-edge well into the third period.

Belfast Giants v Nottingham Panthers
Belfast Giants experienced defeat away to Nottingham Panthers on Sunday Picture: Panthers Images

Speaking after the game, Giants head coach Adam Keefe praised his side’s overall performance while acknowledging room for improvement.

“Yeah on the powerplay we need to do better.” Keefe explained.

“We need to have a defensive mindset first and then an offensive mindset second even on the powerplay.

“However, I thought for the majority of that game we were fairly solid. There was a good energy on the bench and I thought everyone had a pretty good game.

“There were a few standout performances which put us over the top on a good night for us and for the fans.”

The Giants could not continue their momentum on Sunday night against the Panthers in Nottingham.

The hosts took an early lead through Hugo Roy and retained the ascendency throughout the first period with Mathieu Lemay scoring on the powerplay and Logan Neilson adding a third as the sides went in at the first interval.

Blake Speers hit back for the Giants on the powerplay with a one-timer from the top of the left circle to briefly put his side back within touching distance but failed to convert their second powerplay and momentum swung back towards the Panthers.

Lemay scored his second with a deflection finding its way past Beskorowany and Anthony Luciani made it five for Nottingham who beat replacement goalie Jackson Whistle with a neat finish to seal a comfortable win for his side.

Adam Keefe’s men will not dust themselves down and turn their attention towards a home game against the Dundee Stars on Wednesday and another game at home on Friday against Coventry Blaze.