Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Belfast Giants' last chance of glory

Coach Doug Christiansen

Doug Christiansen last night revealed that he has suffered emotional heartbreak after seeing his Belfast Giants team miss out on two trophies in the last month.

And having watched as the Challenge Cup and Elite League title escaped his grasp, Christiansen is urging his players to take their final chance to turn a good season into a great one.

To do that the Giants must win the Play-off title and after making it to the finals weekend in Nottingham by beating Coventry Blaze in a shoot-out, Christiansen is prepared to go through another rollercoaster ride in today's semi-final against the Cardiff Devils — and then in Sunday's final against either Nottingham or Sheffield — in order to lift the trophy.

In what is the ice hockey equivalent to the FA Cup, the Giants will be backed by a sizeable travelling support and having been there a year ago when Steve Thornton led his Belfast team to victory, Christiansen is desperate for a repeat.

“We know that we could be involved in two more extremely close games this weekend,” said Christiansen.

“The four teams who are in Nottingham are the four best teams in the league — the records show that. Three of the teams were in the Challenge Cup semi-finals and the other went and won the league. You're taking about the flip of a coin to pick a winner, but that's what makes it exciting and there is a fine line between success and failure.

“It would be fantastic to end the season as winners. We've been so close to winning two trophies already this season. It's been heartbreaking and tough to see other teams win those two trophies, but we can still finish on a high.

“I want us to be playing in the final on Sunday and I don't care how we get there.”

The Giants semi-final with the Devils faces-off at 5pm today, with the Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers going into battle at 1pm. There is a perception that the winners of the first semi-final go into the decider as favourites, but Christiansen believes any advantage is so small that it's insignificant.

“The winner of the first game will get a few hours extra to rest up before Sunday, but my guys are used to playing on a Saturday night, going home for a few hours sleep before getting up early on Sunday morning to travel to another game,” he said.

“If we win our semi-final we can go back to the hotel, relax, have a good sleep and wake-up at whatever time we want on Sunday in the city where we're going to play, so we won't be at a disadvantage.”

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