Giants’ Playoff Battle Begins this Friday
The Stena Line Belfast Giants will face the Cardiff Devils home and away in the quarter-finals of this season’s Elite League Playoffs. First game is in the Odyssey Arena this Friday 27 March 2015. Face-off 7.00 PM and the final home game of the season.
The Giants then travel to Cardiff, Wales on Sunday, in the second leg of the quarterfinal playoff contest where they compete for a place in the 2015 Elite League playoff finals weekend on the 4th and 5th April 2015 in Nottingham.
Recently the Odyssey Arena has been a very busy place. According to the stats, nearly 20,000 fans packed out the home of the Giants for their previous last three home games. “The fans certainly make a difference,” stated Head Coach and Ops Manager Steve Thornton.
“You can see the guys reenergizes their sore and aching bodies whilst sitting on the bench waiting their next shift. When they hear the drums, chanting and general roar of the crowd they come alive again wanting to hit the ice with a new fever of positive intent!”
Elite League winners and last season’s playoff champions Sheffield Steelers will face Fife Flyers, while Gardiner Conference winners Braehead Clan take on Hull Stingrays. Erhardt Conference winners Nottingham Panthers go head-to-head with Coventry Blaze.
Quarter-final ties take place on a two-legged basis. There will be no overtime or penalties after the first leg, but overtime and penalties will be used if scores are level on aggregate after regulation time in the second leg.
Kevin Philips gets a rare goal
In the last two regular season games the Giants at last got back to winning ways. On Friday last they defeated Coventry Blaze 2-0 in the Odyssey Arena. Goals from Kevin Phillips and Adam Keefe ensured the home side took the two Elite League points on offer in front of at least 7,000 fans.
And the Giants are learning to keep out of the penalty box as Kevin Philips’ and Captain Adam Keefe’s scores were enough to quell the Blaze. The Giants started to look like a force again with Steve Thornton mixing up the lines, back to how they lined up during the better days.
The Giants then travelled to Scotland winning 3-1 on Saturday over the Fife Flyers. After a scoreless opening period they grabbed a powerplay goal through Evan Cheverie with just over a minute gone in the second period.
The often forgotten Giants’ ‘D’ man Jeff Mason scored top shelf to make it 2-0 with Kevin Phillips bagging the third goal – his second in as many nights. Ned Lukacevic managed to pull one back for the Flyers in the third period, but it was not enough and Belfast took the 3-1 win.
Elsewhere, the Sheffield Steelers clinched the Elite League title – won last season by the Giants – with a 2-1 win over the Cardiff Devils. The Nottingham Panthers were named the Erhardt Conference champions, while Braehead Clan are the Gardiner Conference champions.
The Giants will now face the Cardiff Devils over two legs starting this Friday, with a place at the playoff finals at the National Ice Centre in Nottingham in April at stake.
Coach Thorton in better days after winning a trophy
Coach Steve Thornton had this to say after a dramatic first season in charge and looking forward to the play-offs.
“After last weekend’s return to form Carsen Chubak played his part only allowing one goal against. He led from the back with real commitment.
However every player now has to show 100% commitment and play for the guys on their line as well as themselves. Yes, sometimes in league play the players leave something left in their fuel tank for reserve.
In play-off hockey you can’t do that! You must come off the ice totally exhausted with nothing left in the tank until the next shift. That’s every shift and every game because without that effort there will not be a next game.
Finish every check. Leave nothing in the tank for the next game, back check immediately after the Giants lose the puck. Block every shot you can. Remember it’s the little things that make the difference.
Lose one game and you’re out basically”. Passionate thoughts from the Director of Belfast Giants Hockey Operations.
With so much to play for let’s hope Steve Thornton has the attention of the whole Giants’ squad!
Written by Wayne Hardman
2014/15 LEAGUE STANDINGS