Following another defeat on the road the Giants sit in a precarious Challenge Cup position. Ryan Donaldson considers what’s gone wrong away from the SSE Arena.
Another weekend, another road defeat for the Giants of Belfast. Losses are part and parcel of hockey. However the manner of the defeats is concerning at the least. The Giants are yet to win on the road this season in five attempts, albeit two of those against hardened European opponents. But Altrincham, Kirkcaldy and Dundee are venues an EIHL title contender expects to be picking up points.
However it’s not just the results. The form of the Giants has dipped massively. The difference between the team that defeated Liberec, and the team that stepped off the ferry in Scotland this past two weekends is staggering. Offensively we often seem limited to shots from the wall, and attempts from the blue line through a crowd. We seem reluctant to or unable to fashion quality scoring chances. We aren’t moving the opposition netminder. Players aren’t finding space. Our pace has slowed. Players seem almost intent on skating across the lane of the puckcarrier, slowing our transition. And most frustratingly, we struggle to maintain puck possession, especially of face offs.
Defensively we look more stable on the penalty kill than we do 5on5. Fortunate, seeing as we spend a large proportion of many games watching the clock count down on an offending Giant banished to the box. We are giving away too many weak, sloppy penalties. There’s no excuse for so may ‘too many men’ calls. Players need to learn, and fast. We just invited the Stars onto us on Saturday night, giving away so many chances in the slot, with players failing to track back and leaving an opposing player wide open. The Stars, like the Flyers the week before were worthy of their win. The referee quartet took some blame last weekend. This weekend, the officials can shoulder no blame. This defeat was all the Giants’ doing.
Poor form seems to be contagious just now. Despite a positive preseason and CHL campaign, a number of players don’t quite seem to have transferred their play into the world of the Elite League. Swapping the hospitality of Augsberg for the ‘facilities’ in Fife Ice arena seem to have been a shock for a few. The idea that games in September mean as much as games in March also doesn’t seem to have fully sunk in with some.
But the beauty of hockey though is that momentum is an overwhelming influence. One fight, one goal, one win, can change everything. The Giants have two huge opportunities this coming week to turn the tide. Lulea come into town in the Champions Hockey League. Undoubtedly, the best performances the Giants faithful have witnessed this season have been as the underdogs to these European powerhouses. Tuesday night is a huge opportunity to club together, buy into Coach Keefe’s mentality, and prove this roster has what it takes.
A strong performance against the Swedes can generate the momentum that will be required to overturn the league’s in form team on Saturday at Glasgow’s 4th best shopping centre. It may be early doors in the season, but the Challenge Cup group match in Braehead is basically a Game 7 scenario for the Giants.
There are leaders in this dressing room. It’s on those leaders now to galvanise this group, and wring some passion and determination out to propel this team forward.
We’ve seen in patches already what these Giants are capable of.
Time to see it some more.
Ryan got in touch with us to share his thoughts by e-mailing us a KotG.
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PODCAST: Blood Red Lines – Guildford Flames Coach, Paul Dixon is our guest as Davy sits in for Patrick and the lads look pack at the last week in the Land of the Giants.
A View From The Bridge Podcast, Official Podcast of the Belfast Giants, part of Kingdom Of The Giants.New Editions are online EVERY WEDNESDAY through the season, at 8am from Apple Podcasts, Spotify, The Cool FM App and all other good podcast providers.
Words: Ryan Donaldson
Pictures: Dundee Stars