BELFAST, UK – As the Challenge Cup withdraws from the teams focus the Elite League table begins to loom ever larger in the eyes of those sides with ambitions to climb to the top.
Prior to this weekend it seemed the name of the Dundee Stars would be permanently etched in that coveted first place spot, such was their dominant start to the season. However following a weekend that saw them claim only one win it was the Belfast Giants who would be the first side to overtake the Stars and position themselves at the top.
Saturday night in Belfast, the Giants faced-off against a Sheffield side still reeling from a horrific injury list and inconsistent form that has not seen them win both games over the course of any of the seasons early weekend double headers.
That record of inconsistency would continue as goals from four different skaters helped the home town Giants to a 4-2 win. Worse was to come for the Steelers on Monday when the league announced defenseman Gord Baldwin would be suspended for 5 games following review of a second period kick in the game at the Odyssey Arena.
Belfast though continued their weekend with a trip to Coventry and a chance to increase their already impressive goal difference in the process. Four goals in the final period, including an empty net goal from Jeffrey Szwez to add to his strike in the second frame, helped the visitors to a 7-4 win and a double winning weekend to see them draw level on points with Dundee but go above the Stars and claim that top spot in the league.
As for Dundee a Saturday trip to Braehead did anything but go according to plan as the Clan scored three times in the second and twice in the third to run out 5-1 winners. However the Stars where able to add two points to their season total thus far on Sunday with a come from behind 2-1 win at home to Fife.
What of the defending league champion Nottingham Panthers, well Corey Neilson’s men seem to be happy just getting on with the job of winning hockey games, a job they continued with another double success. Saturday saw the Panthers host Coventry and despite the visitors posting 3 goals of their own it was the home town fans who went off into the night happy as five different scorers combined to give Nottingham their first win of the weekend. They would soon make that a 4-point weekend thanks to six of the ten goals scored on Sunday away at Hull.
Despite firing Derek Campbell in the week the Stingrays didn’t let off their scoring four goals on Sunday would match their total from Saturday night in a 4-1 win against the struggling Fife Flyers.
In a weekend that saw a total of 76 goals scored in just 10 games the biggest total tally came in Cardiff. The Devils and Capitals combining for a total of 13 lamp lighters with the home town Devils coming out on top by a score of 8-5. The high scoring would continue on Sunday as this time Cardiff combined with Sheffield for a further 9 goals with new Steelers signing Rob Sirianni making himself an instant fan favourite at the Motorpoint Arena with a hat-trick just a day after joining his new club.
Finally the Edinburgh Capitals continue to sit one place off the bottom of the Elite League table and again head into the week with nothing to show for their endeavours. Along with the high scoring defeat in Cardiff on Saturday the Capitals returned to the Murrayfield Arena on Sunday evening where the awaiting Braehead Clan bagged their first points of the weekend by scoring all three goals in the middle period to condemn the Capitals to a 3-2 defeat.