Coach Keefe delighted as Belfast Giants take Manchester by Storm
HEAD coach Adam Keefe admitted he wasn't sure what kind of effort he was going to get from his Belfast Giants side in their trip to the Manchester Storm on Saturday night, but he needn't have been concerned in the slightest.
After expending a lot of energy, both physical and emotional, in grinding out a crucial 1-0 win over title rivals the Cardiff Devils on Friday night, the Giants headed to Planet Ice Altrincham on Saturday for their third game in four days against a rested Storm side.
But after a cagey opening frame in a difficult away venue, shared 1-1 after goals from Ben Lake and Zach Sullivan, the Giants showed all their quality in a superb second period that saw them open up a 4-1 lead through Lake, Scott Conway and J.J. Piccinich.
Jordan Boucher rounded off the scoring with a double in the third - including an outstanding highlight reel solo effort on the powerplay - as the Giants extended their winning run to 12-in-a-row in the Premier Sports Elite League with a 6-1 victory.
Now 18-5-0 on the season, the Giants are still three points behind league leaders the Sheffield Steelers, while they have four games in hand over the second placed Devils, and Keefe was left beaming again after the performance of his side.
"I wasn't sure which way it was going to go in terms of the emotional victory (on Friday) and what it took out of us, but I think it provided energy for us," said the head coach.
"The guys were coming in on a high and from the drop of the puck we were skating hard and I wasn't concerned.
"When we're skating well, we're a difficult team to handle. That speed, we were angling well through the neutral zone and not giving them a lot of time and space on the puck, which creates turnovers.
"On the flipside of that, our powerplay didn't get a ton either. It's a difficult building to work it around in on the powerplay."
Tyler Beskorowany was yet again in sensational form in turning away 14 of the 15 shots on his goal, the 10th time in their last 14 games that the Giants have conceded one goal or less, with the goaltender beaten just once across 120 minutes over the weekend.
Keefe was even able to get 17-year-old duo Kell Beattie and Mack Stewart on the ice in the third again as they continue to develop at a rapid pace, with the latter picking up the second point in his professional career with a secondary assist on Boucher's second goal.
It says a lot that opposing head coach Ryan Finnerty, whose Storm side have lost six straight, took time in his post-game media duties to label the Giants the best side in the UK - quite an honour given the quality the Steelers ahead of them also possess.
"Belfast are the best team in the league by a long shot, they're an incredible team," praised Finnerty. "It wasn't the best time for us to face a team like that."
The Giants continue their non-stop schedule on Wednesday when they head to the Glasgow Clan for one of their two rescheduled games from earlier in the season, the game at the Braehead Arena facing off at 6:30pm.
Keefe will hope to have captain David Goodwin back for that game, the forward "day to day" after missing both games over the weekend, while a decision on the starting netminder will be made closer to the time as the Giants try to split time between Beskorowany and Jackson Whistle.