Giant underdogs are set to roar, vows Walser
Derrick Walser will lead the Belfast Giants into the Play-off finals weekend determined to prove what he has firmly believed for a long time - that his team is as good, if not better, than anyone else in the league.
And that's despite going into battle in Nottingham with their chances of even making the final already being written off by many observers.
Walser, however, is happy to be wearing the underdogs tag for today's semi-final clash with the Sheffield Steelers (5pm) and is ready to make the critics eat their words.
Experienced players like goaltender Stephen Murphy, defenceman Jim Vandermeer and forwards Brandon Benedict, Steve Saviano, Colin Shields and James Desmarais will be key for the Giants, but so too will be a focus on taking one game at a time.
"It's a hard game to call and some people believe already that it's going to be Sheffield and Cardiff in the final," said Walser.
"Cardiff are the league champions and Sheffield were back-to-back champions before that so we are the underdogs and I'm OK with that.
"In my opinion we are a better team and we want to go and prove people wrong.
"The guys are upbeat and we're ready to have the last laugh.
"I've been on countdown since we beat Fife on Sunday night, everyone is prepared and taking our focus into the first game.
"No matter who we are playing we can't look past the first game because if you start to do that and you get your hopes up about winning you end up with egg on your face.
"We'll take it period by period, break it down and think about one opponent, try to play the way we want to play and we'll see where we land at the end of three periods - hopefully in the final."
There is little or nothing between the Giants and Steelers this season.
The scores stand at four wins each in their eight Elite League meetings - two home and two away victories each - and the one overtime defeat for the Giants helped them to finish a point above the Steelers in the league standings.
That, plus the fact that Play-off semi-final games are usually tight, tense and cagey, might point to a close game, but Walser is expecting goals.
"We won't be sitting back, we'll be going to attack," he said.
"We're not planning to go and open up the game because you can't do that against Sheffield, but we'll be on our toes and I think that there will be some goals.
"We have to go and execute our play, go and believe - believe that at the end of three periods on Saturday night we'll have given ourselves an opportunity to win a trophy.
"That will be my mindset and I want the players to be thinking the same."
Having carried an extra import all season Walser will have to disappoint one of his squad by telling him that he won't figure in the biggest game of the season, but it isn't something that he is going to lose sleep over.
"I've already made the decision over who will drop out," he explained.
"There is one player that we have to look at and make sure that he is ready to go, but if everything is fine there then I know what I am doing because this guy isn't 100 per cent fully ready for a game of this intensity," he added.