In-form Fife Flyers could pose problems for Belfast Giants
THE Belfast Giants would normally expect to beat the Fife Flyers, with two chances to do so, but tonight's Challenge Cup quarter-final second leg game against the Scottish side at the SSE Arena could prove to be more difficult than expected.
Then Kirkaldy outfit are in the midst of their best run for years and Sunday night's 4-1 Elite League win over Braehead Clan was their eighth victory on the bounce.
Their weekend double success over the Glasgow side has left the Flyers living up to their name as they are now sitting in third place in the standings.
They are just a point behind the Giants, who themselves are five behind leaders and defending champions the Cardiff Devils.
However, Fife have the benefit of four games in hand over Adam Keefe's team and look likely to secure a place in the top half of the table, at the very least, come the end of the season.
If they can achieve that, then it would be a break with recent years when the four Scottish teams have consistently finished in the lower regions of the league table.
All in all, it adds up to a potentially testing night for the Giants, who go into the game on the back of an impressive 5-1 win over the Sheffield Steelers on Saturday night.
The sides finished the first leg in Scotland level at 3-3 so Belfast look well-placed to progress but Colin Shields insists his team will have to be at their best if they are to see off his compatriots.
The veteran forward brought up his 600th point as a Giant, in his third spell with the club, after scoring two of the goals in Saturday's win over the Steelers.
"It was a big bounce back for us after losing 3-2 to them on Friday night and we really needed to win what was a massive game for us." said the 37-year-old Scot.
"We stuck to our game-plan, our power-play was good and we managed to play well for 60 minutes and, of course it was nice to get the personal milestone but more important that we won."
The Giants haven't won a trophy of any description for the past three seasons and Shields points out that, of the three on offer, the Challenge Cup is the least difficult to win.
In the past two seasons, the Giants have reached the semi-finals of the cup only to come unstuck in the last four.
"The Challenge Cup is another trophy and you're only a few wins away from lifting it and, when you can do that, it has to be viewed as a great opportunity." he added.
"We are looking forward to the game but when you look at Fife's league position, we certainly can't take anything for granted against them.
"They showed how good a team they are when we played the first leg in Fife - they have a good power-play and penalty-kill.
"We want to make sure we come out solid, like we did against Sheffield on Saturday night and give ourselves the best opportunity to get into the semi-finals."