Belfast Giants must think one game at a time in race to retain league title: David Goodwin

David Goodwin is looking forward to the Belfast Giants' schedule calming down following their gruelling Champions League campaign but believes they can take many positive from their games against high-quality European oppositition
David Goodwin believes the Belfast Giants are still in the race to retain their Elite League title despite their patchy form this season

Belfast Giants must think one game at a time in race to retain league title: David Goodwin

Belfast Giant’s former captain David Goodwin believes his side are still in the race to retain the league title, but insists his side must focus only on themselves and hope league leaders Sheffield Steelers slip up.

The men in teal currently sit second in the league but trail Sheffield by thirteen points having played one more game.

Adam Keefe’s men will have their work cut out to catch up with the Steelers, but have been boosted by the mid-season return of David Goodwin as well as Henrik Erikson and Will Cullen from last season’s treble winning squad.

Keefe’s trusted lieutenants including former captain Goodwin bring with them valuable winning experience and the return from injury Oliver Cooper and Josh Roach will further add to hopes of a resurgence for the men in teal.

Indeed, the Giants completed three wins in a row in their mini-series with Nottingham including a 7-2 thrashing of the panthers on Saturday in one of their best performances of the campaign so far.

However, last weekend typified the Giant’s season so far as they followed up their biggest winning margin of the season with a shootout loss against Coventry Blaze on Sunday.

The league remains tight at the top, with Cardiff Devils and Guildford Flames sitting in third and fourth place respectively, just one point behind the Giants.

With the league battle heating up, every game takes on a new significance and players with experience of handling pressure become even more important.

Goodwin, who claimed five trophies as the Giants captain, knew what he was getting into when he agreed to return from a successful stint plying his trade with Spanish club C.H. Jaca where he scored seven goals in ten games.

Mark Cooper hopes the Belfast Giants can maintain their standard of play in their Champions League matches as they prepare to get their domestic season underway
David Goodwin has paid tribute to Belfast Giants captain Mark Cooper

“I’m delighted to be back in Belfast and I knew what I was coming into having spent so much time here.” The 31-year-old American explains.

“I knew it was going to be a good fit and I knew I was going to be able to hit the ground running as I had met with Keefer (Adam Keefe) and so far so good.

“Everyone is getting on really well and Mark Cooper has done a phenomenal job so far this season as captain. I knew half the guys really well coming in and then the other half I’ve got to know them bit by bit - it’s a really good locker room.”

The well-traveled forward scored 23 goals in 68 games for the Giants last season helping them to win the treble. Goodwin already appears to have made an impact this season, with his influence perhaps helping them towards their 7-2 win over Nottingham last weekend.

“I don’t think it was a different approach,” explains Goodwin.

“I think we just managed to stick with the game-plan and grind through some of that adversity better than we’ve done in the past. We were down in the game and then we had some penalty trouble so it wasn’t all rosy.

“We stuck with the game plan and eventually we were able to break Nottingham down and the goals followed after that.”

As for Sunday’s loss against Coventry, the former captain is matter-of-fact in stating his opinion about his side’s poor start.

“The biggest takeaway from Sunday’s game is that you can’t get scored on in the first shift. It was a tight game but if you take that early goal away it’s a different game. I don’t know what the stat is from last year but i felt we got scored on in the first shift when we played in Coventry fairly regularly.

“Huge credit to Coventry - they know exactly what they’re doing and they play in their arena really well. But, if we’re looking to be top of the standings next year then that is something we can’t allow.”

The Giants will have a chance at redemption on Saturday evening at the SSE Arena where they will take on the Blaze once again before facing Guildford Flames away on Sunday.

“This weekend is massive. We all feel like we owe Coventry a tough game and we are looking to rebound off our performance last Sunday.

“We want to show that we’re in second place for a reason and the game against Coventry last week was far from our best performance. We’re looking forward to bouncing back.”

“We are focusing on ourselves at the minute. It feels different to last year because we were a bit closer to the top and could really feel how close we were.

“This season we’re a bit further away. I’m not saying it’s not possible because we absolutely still believe we’re still in the race but in the meantime we are going to focus on ourselves and getting two wins this weekend. If Sheffield slip up, then great.”