After a goalless 60 minutes and a frantic spell of overtime, it was the Giants who emerged victorious from the shootout thanks to goals from Ben Lake and Scott Conway, sealing a vital four-point weekend.
There was little separating the sides in the opening ten minutes. Sheffield defenceman Matt Petgrave, one of the previous night’s main antagonists, sat for slashing at 3:38 before skirmishes began to routinely break out after the whistle.
The Giants edged the lion’s share of first period attempts as the referees were content to let the game flow, most notably a shot and rebound effort from David Gilbert, along with committed net driving from Mark Cooper, but the sides headed in at the first intermission tied at zero.
The deadlock remained throughout a second period which saw the Sheffield Steelers grow in confidence and begin to threaten with possession in the offensive zone.
Belfast were handed the biggest opportunity of the period when David Phillips’ charging call at 28:08 became a 5 on 3 power play, as Scott Allen was whistled for tripping at 29:30. Adam Keefe called a time out ahead of the draw in the Steelers’ zone, but the visitors held on.
There were also worrying scenes for the Teal Army as veteran defensive stalwart Mark Garside exited the game with an apparent upper body injury following a hit behind the Steelers goal mid period.
The simmering tension of the weekend finally made its mark on the game as penalty minutes dominated a gruelling third which served as a showcase of two hot goaltenders.
The Giants couldn’t find a way inside on Danny Kristo’s delay of game call at 42:48, before turning away the Steelers on a Scott Conway interference penalty at 46:44.
The boxes were crowded at 47:24 as roughing calls were dealt to Belfast’s Conway and Sam Ruopp, along with Sheffield’s Scott Allen and Marc Olivier Vallerand, leaving the action at 5 on 5.
Conway was to return for minutes 5 and 6 of the period in the box, taking a follow-up roughing call at 51:38.
An intense period of 3 on 3 sudden death overtime saw the teams trade blows at opposite ends, drawing breakaway opportunities and repeatedly being denied by superb goaltending from Matt Greenfield and Tyler Beskorowany- the latter of which was simply lights out, pulling off an awe-inspiring triple save to send it to the shootout.
Ben Lake and Scott Conway converted their shots for Belfast, whilst a Brendan Connolly penalty shot for Sheffield was ruled a goal despite ambiguity over the puck crossing the line.
It was left to Beskorowany to make the save with the game on the line, turning away Brett Neumann to secure a dramatic four point weekend.
The Stena Line Belfast Giants home stand continues next weekend as the Guildford Flames visit The SSE Arena, Belfast on Saturday 4th February at 7:00pm, followed by the Fife Flyers on Sunday 5th February at 4:00pm. Tickets are on sale HERE!