The mood in the SSE Arena was infectiously celebratory from the moment the doors opened, and on a (very) rare night where the actual hockey wasn’t at the fore of the Teal Army’s minds, head coach Adam Keefe provided three reasons to care off the drop.
An all-British starting six, featuring no less than three home grown players took the puck drop to rapturous applause.
Mack Stewart, Kell Beattie and Carter Hamill did not miss a beat despite the raucous capacity crowd the sense of occasion, giving a great account of themselves against a full-strength Sheffield Steelers line up.
In an otherwise quiet period, Slater Doggett opened the scoring for the Giants from the slot at 18:31 (Assist: Ben Lake, Darcy Murphy). (1-0)
Doggett was robbed of his second on the power play (Tommaso Traversa, tripping, 25:01) by a spawling Rok Stojanovic at the back door.
A flurry of late goals was sparked by Marc-Olivier Vallerand, who sniped an equaliser from the mid slot unassisted at 28:34. (1-1)
Lewis Hook’s puck to Jordan Boucher provided Belfast with their second at 35:18. (2-1)
And the period was tied at two on the buzzer courtesy of Rob Dowd’s wrist shot on Giants goalie Jackson Whistle at 38:06 (Assist: Martin Latal). (2-2)
Kell Beattie sat for an early holding call (40:48), before the Giants edged a lead on the power play (Dowd, high sticking, 47:08) courtesy of Lewis Hook at 47:42 (Assist: Scott Conway, JJ Piccinich). (3-2)
Then, at 49:36, the moment of an already extraordinary night. Mack Stewart, son of Belfast Giants legend and assistant Coach Rob Stewart, got his stick to the puck at the edge of the paint to extend the lead and notch his debut pro goal (Assist: Mark Garside, Jordan Boucher). (4-2)
An already thunderous arena doubled down with ten minutes to go as Jackson Whistle was replaced in goal by Ballymoney’s own Andrew Dickson.
A Ciaran Long hooking call passed without incident at 50:43, but Sheffield clawed one back courtesy of Tanner Eberle at 51:36, with Sam Ruopp in the box for boarding (Assist: Kevin Schulze, Marc Olivier Vallerand). (4-3)
Steelers coach Aaron Fox pulled goalie Rok Stojanovic in favour of the extra man, and the game was tied by Rob Dowd at 58:57, sending the sides to OT.
2:01 into overtime, Jordan Boucher clinched the game winner as he broke down the slot from a Sam Ruopp pass (Second assist: Slater Doggett). (OT 5-4)
The Belfast Giants return to action on Saturday night at 7:00pm to close out the regular season with the visit of the Coventry Blaze. Tickets are on sale HERE.