Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Belfast Giants back in old routine

Familiar face:  Evan Cheverie is back with the Giants
Familiar face: Evan Cheverie is back with the Giants

The only numbers that new Belfast Giants coach Paul Adey will be looking at are those on the statistics sheets – not on birth certificates.

The team that Adey has assembled contains a mix of the main players from last season's roster that finished second in the Elite League, a few new faces and some old ones too, with Kevin Phillips, Evan Cheverie and Jeffrey Szwez all returning for second spells at the Odyssey.

The average age of the squad is 29-and-a-half, with four new signings over.

At 37 years old, Calvin Elfring is the elder statesman of the team and he comes to Belfast along with 34-year-old Dutin Whitecotton, after the two played together in Germany's DEL with the Straubing Tigers.

Add in the return of 35-year-old Robby Sandrock and it's a defensive unit that knows their way around an ice rink.

And Adey is delighted to have his team built on that extensive know-how.

"It doesn't hurt to have experience in the team and nowadays defencemen are playing into their 40s if they look after themselves," said Adey, who has taken over the reins from Doug Christiansen after he departed for the Sheffield Steelers.

"Calvin Elfring may be 37, but he skates like he's 22 and and he's as fit as guys half his age.

"For me it's down to how much the guys contribute to the team, not how old they are.

"They are all in good shape and although we have some guys who are in their 30s, it's about their conditioning and from what I've seen that's good.

"These guys will be good players for us. Elfring and Whitecotton are going to contribute offensively as well as being big defensive players and they have already shown that in the two challenge games that we played last weekend."

Two wins in those pre-season matches against the Bolzano Foxes have given the Giants an injection of confidence ahead of tonight's Elite League opener against the Edinburgh Capitals at the Odyssey.

Elfring scored in both games to back up Adey's view that he will be effective at both ends of the ice. Szwez has spent three seasons in Germany since scoring a fantastic 45 goals in 54 games for the Giants during the 2009-10 season.

Cheverie scored the goal that won the Play-off final against Cardiff that season – one of 35 he scored during the campaign and Adey is pleased to have that depth of goalscoring in his team.

"It's a good thing that Szwez, Cheverie, as well as Kevin Phillips are familiar with Belfast as it won't be a big transition for them," said Adey.

"It means they will settle quicker and that will help them on the ice."

The challenge set down in front of Adey is to go one better than Christiansen did last year.

Although the Giants won their Conference, that wasn't really enough to satisfy the fans whose sights were set on retaining the Elite League title.

"I am excited by the challenge," said Adey.

"We'll be competitive and we'll be going out to win every game and hopefully it takes us to some trophies."

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