SHEFFIELD, UK – With only a few weeks of the regular season left in the Elite League, Belfast knew only two wins from their weekend double header against Cardiff would be enough to keep them in the race for the title.
Three goals from Andrew Fournier, over the pair of games, and a 24-save shutout from Stephen Murphy was enough for the Giants to do their bit and take maximum points with a 5-4 win on Friday and a 5-0 performance the following night.
However, anything Belfast can do, Nottingham can do better.
The Panthers came into the weekend with a slender two-point lead at the top of the table and with Belfast and Sheffield desperate for them to put a foot wrong, Nottingham knew only full marks would be enough. Dundee, Fife and Edinburgh were waiting and hoping to ruin Corey Nielson’s Scottish weekend away, however the Panthers were having none of it and completed their weekend triple in, some might say, title winning style.
First up was Dundee and, thanks to four goals from four different scorers, the Panthers marked win number one off their list with a 4-1 victory. Then came the playoff chasing Fife Flyers, they didn’t fare any better and were despatched with ease in a 10-2 hammering that included two goals from Bruce Graham and David Ling.
Finally came a trip to the former royal seat of Scotland and the inform Edinburgh Capitals, well inform till Nottingham arrived that is. 6-1 was the final score in this one and Matt Francis completing the only hat-trick of the weekend for a team who ended it scoring twenty goals, only conceding four in three games and maintaining their two point cushion.
What about the other team in the title race, the Sheffield Steelers? They only had a single game on the schedule this weekend and, despite getting a point, couldn’t get the better over Edinburgh as the Caps came away with a 3-2 shootout win to all but apply the final knockout blow to the Steelers title hopes for this season.
Elsewhere, on Saturday night, Hull kept up their late charge for a post-season ticket with an impressive 2-1 win away at Braehead and Coventry added to the misery for Dundee as the Blaze matched Nottingham’s score from the previous night with a 4-1 win.
Sunday saw Hull continue their upturn in form with a 3-1 win in the final game of their season series against Fife, Coventry made it two wins for the weekend as they squeaked past Cardiff, and dealt the Devils a third defeat in three days, in a 3-2 win.
Finally Dundee were able to regain their defensive composure and end their three game run on a high note with a 3-0 win at home to the Braehead Clan.