Belfast increase league lead to 17 points by beating Sheffield

Jeffrey Szwez scores Belfast's second goal in Saturday's game

Belfast Giants increased their Elite League lead to 17 points as they earned a 4-2 win in the first of this weekend's back-to-back clashes with Sheffield at the Odyssey Arena.

Jeffrey Szwez scored a hat-trick with Adam Keefe also on target.

Jonathan Phillips and Robert Dowd scored Sheffield's goals.

Sheffield remain Belfast's nearest challengers in the table after Saturday's games and the sides meet again in Belfast on Sunday (16:00 GMT).

Szwez's two opening goals in the first period were split by a Jonathan Phillips reply as the sides battled in front of 5,532 spectators at the Odyssey, the biggest attendance of the current campaign.

After a goalless second period, Keefe's increased Belfast's lead eight minutes into the final period and Szwez completed his hat-trick three minutes later to end any prospect of a Steelers fightback.

Dowd scored Sheffield's second goal with nine minutes left but Belfast were never in danger of being caught.