Belfast Giants. The game itself was Belfast Giants Vs Sheffield Steelers in a top of the table clash which was highly hyped but didn't disappoint.
It had been ages since we had last gone to watch the Giants. Norngirl and I had been to a live hockey game in the last 6 months but that was at Madison Square Gardens to watch the New York Rangers take on the Boston Bruins but it was a long time since we were last at the Odyssey.
I think it was likely due to the ticket prices which although reasonable for the games in relation to other entertainment prices tends to be more than we can realistically afford on top of all our other outgoings. It does seem we tend to go to watch the Giants mainly for special occasions.
There was expected to be a sell out and although there was a seat here and there that was not occupied, the Odyssey arena was indeed pretty much full to capacity
Before we headed into the stand, we headed to the bar and discovered that these days, like in the NHL, you can take your drinks to your seats. Heaven!
So hyper with anticipation and knowing we could enjoy a beer at the same time, we found our seats ready for face off and sat down just in time to join in a Mexican wave followed by watching the Giant on the ice bang his drum, the lights flashing and the crowd being worked up into frenzy as the music built. Game on!
It was a very good atmosphere, there were a few groups of school kids in the stadium and whatever they were on I think I would like to try (lots of sugar more than likely)!
The buzz about the place seemingly passed onto the players. To begin with it seemed to take a few minutes for the players to find an edge to their skates. Puck control wasn't the best but things quickly improved.
For me, the Elite League is to the NHL what Irish League Football is to the English Premier League, the skill level might not be consistently the same but it's of high enough quality to not take away from the spectacle. If anything, this adds a sense of unpredictability which combined with moments of class worthy of any league leads to a more exciting spectacle.
That unpredictability in this game first came when a shot from a giants player was almost saved by the Steelers goaltender but it wasn't saved, it sneaked over the line, seemingly lingering for a moment on it's way into the net as if to give the crowd time to rise to their feet.
The place went wild but not as wild as when the lead was doubled minute when the Giants made it 2-0 after Mason finished a fine move.It wasn't long before there was to be more drama. A penalty was called against the Steelers but as play continued and the Giant's goaltender hurried off to let a 6th skater on, the Giants capitalised on the play before the Steelers even had their man in the penalty box. The giants left the ice at the end of the 1st period 3-0 to the good. We happily wandered off to the bar very impressed by what we'd seen.
Into the the 2nd period things got even better. Taking a 3-0 lead against the league leaders doesn't happen every game and I'm sure it came as quite a surprise even to the most die hard Giants fans when the score board read 4-0 after the puck was flicked over the line from close range. Without time to draw breath the scoreline took an even better look. During a powerplay the Giants caught the Steelers too high up the ice and hit home to make it 5-0 - the game wasn't even half way in.
The giants efforts though seemed to come at a price. Understandably they eased off a little and credit to the shell shocked Steelers, they regrouped and started to press resulting in a powerplay that helped the Steelers get one back. The consolation goals totalled 2 before the end of the 2nd period when a hit and hope into a crowded goal mouth seemed to catch a deflection and sneak in. The score at the end of the 2nd period of play was 5-2
It was a 40 minute goalfest and great fun, the crowd got ready to throw pucks at the Giants mascot in a competition but we headed back to the bar in high spirits.
Back after a toilet break and with our last beers in hand, the 3rd period got under way. The Steelers momentum somewhat diminished after a short fight which although lacking much that could be defined as a punch, saw the Steelers player hit the ice first.
Both good and bad, there were no more goals in the game though not for the want of trying from either side, a few close calls and some good saves. Between the action all through the game were give-aways and a rather scary life-sized sandwich super hero who seemed to scare us more than the kids who flocked to it.
The Giants ran out deserved winners, reducing Sheffield's lead at the top of the league and giving themselves a chance at winning the league.
As the presentations took place at the end of the game we were completely baffled as to why we hadn't been back sooner. Being able to have a drink whilst watching the game was an added bonus. We certainly aim to make it back more often next season.