Foolish penalties could see Belfast Giants lose title
Doug Christiansen has warned his Belfast Giants players that indiscipline could cost them a second successive Elite League title.
Although the Belfast Giants took a maximum four points from their two post-Christmas games against Braehead Clan and the Hull Stingrays, all seven goals conceded in those matches have been on opposition powerplays.
The Giants led 4-1 at the end of a blistering first period against Hull on Saturday, Kevin Saurette scoring twice before Hull pulled one back through Jereme Tendler. Greg Stewart and Noah Clarke then scored before the first break to put the Belfast men in a comfortable position.
Tendler then took his tally for the season to 24 goals as he bagged a hat-trick before Jason Silverthorn levelled matters with a minute to go in the second period.
The Giants then netted the winner on a powerplay of their own 46 seconds into the third period through Craig Peacock to stay four points behind the Nottingham Panthers at the top of the table, but with two games in hand to close that gap.
The win also put the Giants into the semi-final of the Challenge Cup, where they will face either Nottingham or Fife.
“We did our best to keep Hull in the game,” said Christiansen.
“We gave some foolish penalties away in the second period and our penalty kill didn’t work as effectively as I would like it to.
“I talked to the guys during the breaks and told them we either stay out of the box or kill the penalties — and we didn’t do either.
“We let Hull get level after we’d been 4-1 up and we were fortunate to get a powerplay goal from Craig Peacock to win the game.
“Against Braehead the problem was caused by breakdowns in our system, whereas against Hull we didn’t execute our penalty kill as well as we have done in the past, but I look back to the two games before Christmas, against Coventry and Sheffield, when our kill was perfect.
“We will go through things in practice, guys like Kevin Saurette and Colin Shields haven’t played on the penalty kill, but they will get their chance this week.”
Saurette is set to be something of an all-rounder for the Giants, with the 32-year-old, who only signed a few days before Christmas, scoring three times in his first two appearances at the Odyssey Arena, with more goals expected.
“I knew when I signed Kevin Saurette that we were getting a great player,” said Christiansen.
“What I didn’t appreciate at that time was his physicality, but he is so strong and he has been fantastic for us on the forecheck.
“He drives the net really well too and he’s been rewarded for that in the games that he has played so far.”
While Christiansen can look back on 2012 with a great deal of pride and pleasure after winning the Elite League title he is also intent on making 2013 a successful year too, with the retention of the crown being uppermost in his thoughts.
“I look back on 2012 as being a great year,” said Christiansen.
“Winning the league was, of course, a highlight and going to Germany for the Continental Cup was huge for us too.
“It was also great for me personally to be part of the Great Britain coaching team when we went to Japan and got through to the final round of the Olympic qualifiers.
“All that has set us up for a go at doing it all again in 2013 and it is going to be an exciting year.
“We won a lot of games during the year too and I am obviously happy with what we have achieved as a team.
“There is now everything to play for over the next few months,” the coach added.
“The Belfast Giants has established itself and defined itself by being in contention for championships on an annual basis.
“We have the majority of our games at home in the remainder of the season and we have to make the Odyssey a difficult place for teams to come and pick up the points that will hopefully make us champions again.”