Sometimes, it’s hard to remind yourself that games against the Sheffield Steelers count for the name number of points as the rest of them.
An atmosphere worthy of a cup final filled the SSE Arena ahead of puck drop, as a packed crowd rose to acknowledge the 585th game of Belfast Giants all-time leading scorer Colin Shields, tonight overtaking the great Graeme Walton and adding the title of all time most games played in Teal.
That atmosphere was to continue into a sharp first period- where the Giants looked good early. Starting Steelers netminder Jackson Whistle (who, along with Ryan Martinelli, was met with thundering boos from the home crowd) send a shot loose into the slot which was fanned on.
Adam Keefe had clearly instructed his men to finish their checks tonight, and the Giants spent the first ten minutes doing a good job of forcing turnovers in the offensive zone.
A huge roar of relief went up when Mark Garside successfully chased down a Jonas Westerling breakaway, however following a successful Giants Penalty Kill (Roach, 2 min slashing) the Steelers took the lead at 15:07 through Steelers returnee John Armstrong (Assists: Matheson, Dowd) (0-1)
Belfast’s frustrations were compounded just over a minute later when Anthony Deluca doubled the visitors lead, his unassisted effort leaving Tyler Beskorowany soundly beaten.
The Giants were to begin the second period short handed (Garside 2 min), and despite the man advantage, and despite the disadvantage they found some offense early on. A Darcy Murphy goal mouth scramble led to a Josh Roach one timer from the blue line, which was swiftly taken care of by Jackson Whistle.
In fact, Whistle had looked sharp throughout. More than a match for anything coming his way.
Any signs of dominance the Giants had shown in the first ten minutes of the game had all but evaporated since- until Blair Riley finally opened the home side’s scoring from Jim Vandermeer on the half hour mark. A roar of relief went up from the Teal Army, as Riley celebrated towards the Steelers travelling fans. (1-2)
They didn’t seem to enjoy that.
Jordan Owens left the Steelers a man short at 33 minutes- heading to the box for slashing. The resulting faceoff in the Sheffield zone led to some pushing and shoving as tempers showed their first signs of spilling over.
Moments later, Kyle Baun struck twine for a much needed goal, assisted by Josh Roach and Patrick Dwyer. (2-2)
The tied scoreline did not last long, however, as Jordan Owens paid back his earlier penalty with a goal at the 34 minute mark, assisted by Josh Pitt. In all honestly, a dreadfully soft goal for the Giants to concede. The home side’s earlier defensive frailties coming back to haunt them in a big way. (2-3)
The sides traded power plays as the second period came to a close- Tanner Eberle hooking at 34.52, Josh Roach slashing at 38.31.
As the Zambonis took to the ice, the Belfast Giants were outshooting the Sheffield Steelers 31-18, but trailed 2-3.
Simple pucks on net were not going to be enough to take care of Whistle tonight.
A lengthy delay followed before the third period got properly underway- with arena technicians working on a issue with the west end plexi glass.
When it finally did David Rutherford found the puck from around the back of the net at 42:07 and shot low left past his former room-mate Jackson Whistle from close range. (Assist: Baun) (3-3)
Dustin Johner took a swift interference penalty as action resumed- breaking out of the box following a successful penalty kill with an immediate chance on Whistle. The Belfast Giants offense within the first five minutes of the third was much more meaningful than anything that had come before.
As the Giants pressed, the SSE Arena was thunderous.
Following a period of incredible Giants pressure, Blair Riley intercepted a Steelers puck to fire past Jackson Whistle unassisted at 55.05 to send the thousands of home fans absolutely wild. (4-3)
But this one wasn’t over. A Kevin Raine elbowing penalty with 2 minutes and change left in the game saw Tom Barrasso pull Jackson Whistle to give the visitors a 2 man advantage.
With 1.13 left, Robert Dowd beat Tyler Beskorowany to tie the game at 4-4. An utterly nerve shredding final minute saw the Giants scramble at Jackson Whistle’s goal, but time expired and 3 on 3 overtime loomed.
With 1.54 left in a chaotic overtime, Patty Dwyer broke Yorkshire hearts with a beautiful game winning goal to seal the 2 points for the Belfast Giants. (4-5 AOT)
The roar from a jubilant Teal Army was utterly deafening.
PODCAST: Dipsy Doodle – This Week’s A View From The Bridge has Colin Shields sharing a few stories. The lads look back at 3 in 3 for the Giants and discuss the NCAA return this weekend ahead of the Steelers games
A View From The Bridge Podcast, Official Podcast of the Belfast Giants, part of Kingdom Of The Giants.
New Editions are online EVERY WEDNESDAY at 8am from Apple Podcasts, Spotify and all other good podcast providers.
Words: Joel Neill
Audio: Joel Neill / AVFTB
Images: William Cherry / PressEye