Garside has inspired Giants to stand tall: Walser
Derrick Walser has credited Mark Garside for playing a key part in improving the Belfast Giants' defensive set-up.
Now in his seventh season with the Giants, Garside had been used to doing his work at the other end of the ice, regularly getting his name on the scoresheet with goals and assists, until the team were hit with a defensive crisis last season.
After the 27-year-old Scotsman impressed on the blue line, player/coach Walser built his team for this season with Garside listed as a defenceman and it's a move that has paid off.
Only the Sheffield Steelers have conceded fewer goals than the Giants this season and with the teams due to meet tomorrow night, it could be down to the respective defences to win the game.
"Mark Garside has been a good fit in defence. He and Ryan Martinelli gel well together and I like him in defence," said Walser. "He is a key piece of what we are trying to do. We have used him as a forward this season too when we've had injuries and that is an option I keep in mind, but right now I prefer him in defence.
"He is calm on the puck, makes good plays and is a good skater too."
First up for the Giants this weekend is a trip to the Dundee Stars this evening.
After four successive wins and just two defeats in their last eight outings, Walser's men are right in the Elite League title mix, six points behind the Cardiff Devils with two games in hand and still three quarters of the season to go.
A big part of that run of form is the performance of the special teams, with the powerplay unit and the penalty kill both strong - although Walser wants them to be even stronger.
"I think sometimes we have overcomplicated the powerplay and when that happens you start to create problems for yourself," he said.
"We have started to get back to basics and a couple of weeks ago we scored two of our four goals against Nottingham on powerplays and that won us the game.
"You can't chill out just because you're on a powerplay, you have to be as desperate as you are on the penalty kill."
On the penalty kill, Walser said: "I think last year when we got short handed we were still trying to score, but now we're making smarter changes and making life easier for ourselves."
Tonight's game will be Colin Shields' 550th in Elite League competition and Brandon Benedict will rack up 400 if he plays in both of the weekend's matches.