Adam Keefe wants his Belfast Giants to go at it from the start against Sheffield Steelers
Viaplay Elite Ice Hockey League
Belfast Giants v Sheffield Steelers (Friday, SSE Arena, 7pm
BELFAST Giants head coach Adam Keefe has praised his team’s mentality for battling through injury and adversity, but has warned them not to start slowly again when they face the Sheffield Steelers.
The Elite League leaders saw their advantage slashed to two points in midweek when the second-placed Guildford Flames won their game in hand at the Coventry Blaze, with just four games remaining.
With the Flames coming to the SSE Arena next Saturday in the penultimate game of the season, a win tonight for the Giants would be crucial as it would leave them needing to win just two of their last three games to successfully defend their title.
Not only that, but the two points would eliminate the third-placed Steelers from the title race - and, by extension, the fourth-placed Cardiff Devils - and secure the Giants’ place in the Champions Hockey League for next season.
And Keefe is eager for them to continue to fight for points in their bid to make it two trophies from two this season, however he has warned them to start faster than in their 5-4 overtime loss to the Devils last week when they trailed by two goals at the first intermission.
“These guys have been on a serious run and have battled through. I can take nothing away from these guys, the character to battle back in the second period and third period through fatigue,” he said. “We’re certainly not taking anything away from the players’ fightback, hopefully we’ll look back on that as very important down the stretch.
“But, again, we have to start on time. It’s not easy to win these kind of games if we don’t start on time. We’ve been pretty good at that but (last week) we weren’t.
“I look at it as a point dropped. It’s a point closer to the trophy but, at the same time, Guildford does not seem to lose, so you have to keep winning and that’s the mentality we need.
“We’re two points up. We have to worry about the next game and that’s Sheffield.”
While we won’t know if the Giants’ overtime defeat at the hands of Cardiff is indeed a point gained or a point dropped until the conclusion of the title race, having that setback will perhaps sharpen the minds heading into this weekend, with the Manchester Storm in town tomorrow night, too (7pm).
The Giants will be hoping that at least one of Gabe Bast or Josh Roach will be available to take on the Steelers tonight after limping off against the Devils a week ago, while Ben Lake should be back.