Ben Lake hopes Belfast Giants are back on the straight and narrow after rocky start to the season

Belfast Giants' win over Glasgow Clan on St Stephen's Day made it five wins from their last five games in the Elite League (AL GOOLD PHOTO)
Elite League: Belfast Giants v Glasgow Clan (Thursday, 7pm. SSE Arena)

It has been a rollercoaster season so far for the Belfast Giants, who enjoyed an early season winning streak followed by a rocky patch which threatened to completely derail the defending champions’ campaign.

There have been encouraging signs for the men in teal of late. Their 5-2 victory over Glasgow on St Stephen’s Day makes it five wins from their last five games in the Elite League.

However, they are still capable of the occasional banana skin result such as the disappointing shootout defeat to Coventry Blaze which saw them crash out of the Challenge Cup just over a week ago.

It was never going to be an easy season for Adam Keefe’s side. They faced the unenviable task of attempting to match last season’s historic treble-winning season with only 11 of last season’s roster remaining.

As we approach the end of 2023, one of the Giant’s stalwarts, the ever-reliable Ben Lake, has been reflecting on the ups and downs of the season so far and looking ahead to where the Giants find themselves.

The Calgary-born British dual national, who is now in his fourth season with the Giants, remains hopeful that his side can recapture their form from the start of the season and make a late charge for the trophies still on offer.

“I think everyone is feeling a lot better now than we were a month ago,” Lake explains.

“I don’t think we have lost in regulation time in the last eight or nine games. We had the Challenge Cup loss which was disappointing but hopefully we have turned a corner now.

“The squad is getting healthy again and we are getting bodies back into the team which adds to it.”

Everyone in the squad is on board and staying upbeat and now we are getting some wins on the board that confidence is only going to build, (Al Goold/Al Goold photo)

Indeed, there appears to be a growing sense of optimism amongst Belfast Giants players and supporters who were left baffled by their sudden and dramatic downturn in form earlier in the season.

Lake is also at a loss to identify the cause but remains pragmatic when it comes to avoiding a similar collapse in future.

“It is tough to pinpoint anything specifically that has impacted our form,” explains the 33-year-old.

“We have been very up and down. We started really well in the Champions League then we went 14 or so games unbeaten in the league and Challenge Cup.

“Then we hit a rough patch there in November and December time.

“Injuries were a part of it, but I’m reluctant to use that excuse. We have had some pretty bad luck with injuries, but we should have been able to weather that.

“I think it was just a bit of a lack of confidence which developed over a period of time. We struggled to score, we struggled to defend and we have finally come back to basics.

“Work ethic has been massive for us. The only way you can get out of a situation like that is work ethic.

“Everyone in the squad is on board and staying upbeat and now we are getting some wins on the board that confidence is only going to build, and we will hopefully start clawing back the gap between us and first place in the league.

“There are still two trophies up for grabs and they are now our aim.”

These words of hopeful optimism have been backed up by results which saw the Giants achieve back-to-back four-point weekends in the run up to Christmas over Manchester Storm and Fife Flyers before continuing their run with a win over Glasgow on Tuesday this week.

The Giants quickly took the lead through captain Mark Cooper and Greg Printz and Quinn Preston added scores to put the Giants three up before Glasgow hit back with two goals of their own.

However, the Giants survived the scare despite pressure from the Clan and pulled away with Daniel Tedesco’s strike giving them breathing space and Bobby MacIntyre sealing the important win with a late powerplay goal.

The Giants now sit in third place in the Elite League as they prepare to face Glasgow in Belfast on Thursday.

“We were under a lot of pressure in that game and once Teddy (Daniel Tedesco) scored that goal there was a sigh of relief and we started playing our game,” said Lake of the Glasgow win.

“We showed that when we play our game not a lot of teams can compete with us. I think we need to play that way all the time and not let a goal for or against us dictate how we feel going into each shift.

“I’m looking forward to our second game against Glasgow and hopefully we can take that momentum from how we finished our last game into this one.”