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Gary Jackson refelcts on the importance of this weekend.

Back in January I wrote about what I believed to be the most exciting title run in for some
time, and a big part of that run in is the games between your Belfast Giants, and Sheffield
Steelers. The way the fixtures have worked this season, means we face each other 5 times
between now and the end. It’s tight at the top, as I write this Belfast are 2 points clear at the
top and Sheffield have a game in hand. Games against Sheffield always have a bit extra,
and I have no doubt that there will be a large travelling contingent from South Yorkshire
given it’s a double header weekend with all to play for. The atmosphere at the SSE in Belfast
will be electric.

I often bleat on about the class of 2003 to anyone who will listen to me, its arguably my
favourite team in Giants history and I remember a home double header against Sheffield
where we beat them both nights, and they took us to overtime on the second night, going on
to win the league by 1 point. That might have been the loudest I had ever heard the odyssey.
In 2012 we hosted Steelers in a double on St Patrick’s day. Again it was a top 2 clash, and
everyone (except AVFTB Patrick Smyth it has to be said) thought these would be two tightly
contested games. When Criag Peacock slotted home some 30 seconds into the game the
league was sealed. While we cannot win the league this weekend an 8 point swing is
possible and would really send a statement putting us in the driving seat.
Since the Giants claimed top spot, i have been running every scenario through my head,
reading every tweet, from every fan i know for both belfast and sheffield, our PPG is better at
home, theirs is better away, current form favours us, basically i’ve been absorbing every
nugget I can. The one thing that stands out for me is goals tally. Giants have scored 167
which is a GFA of 2.53 in the league, Sheffield 157 goals is 2.45, so in theory the winning
team has to score 3 goals or more. Even more stark is the goals against, the giants have
only conceded 77 goals, or 1.17 GAA scoring 3 against us will be some ask for Sheffield,
who have conceded 103 for 1.61 GAA. Defence wins championships! I could write an article
on this seasons defence corps, and in particular Griffen Reinhart who has been immense
this season, an absolute Bentley of a defenceman, but ill save that for another day. The
bottom line is none of it really matters, cliches are cliches for a reason, and the game is
played on the ice not on a spreadsheet. Since I wrote my article on the run in, all through
January Sheffield looked unbeatable, any points they did drop we dropped too. But through
the tail of February and into March they have hit a mini blip and dont seem to be able to buy
a win.

Over the last few seasons i’ve felt like Belfast was the most hated team in the league, but in
preparation for this article i reached out to fans of teams other than Belfast and Sheffield and
the general consensus is everyone wants Belfast to win, ABS is alive and well in 2022. I
asked the same question of them all, “as a neutral what would you rather see, we have 5
games against them, a split series, which might drag Cardiff back into contention, but even if
it doesnt keeps the title race aliove to the the last game of the seaosn, or one team to win it
and then romp to the title. Fans in Cardiff Nottingham and Coventry all agreed they want the
Giants to win the series, and the league.
“As much as no one in Wales wants to hear you lot crowing on about 4 in a row, its better
than seeing the trophy in orange.”

“I’d pick Belfast over Sheffield any day, but it being close/even and you guys winning 3 to
their 2 would be my preference, in theory gives us a chance.”
One Panthers fan even said they would take 2 overtime losses against us in their own
double header here as it would help stop the Steelers. Its been over 10 years since the
phrase “for the good of british hockey,” was uttered about trying to stop Belfast from winning
the league, and now the shoe is on the other foot. Giants and Steelers fans are
understandably nervously excited about the prospect of this weekend’s Double Ender.

Stewart Smith (@Stew_Smith1) tweeted: “This DH against Sheffield is massive!! They will
be looking to get back at it after back to back losses. Personally, whoever comes out on top
this weekend, wins it in the end.” As i’ve already said, an 8 point swing would be a massive
statement, in either direction but i think even that given theres an away double and another
home game left to play wouldn’t decide the league.

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