Belfast Telegraph

Giants can't afford to be complacent, says Walser

By Stuart McKinley

Derrick Walser has warned his Belfast Giants players that their current winning streak means nothing ahead of tonight's Challenge Cup quarter-final second leg against Manchester Storm (7pm).

And the player-coach has also hammered home the message that they can't rely on home-ice advantage to get them through to a semi-final battle against Elite League leaders Cardiff either.

Walser does, however, believe that if the Giants play at their best then it doesn't matter what Manchester do.

After a thrilling 3-3 draw in last week's first leg, the tie will come down to 60 minutes tonight - or possibly more if needs be - for the right to face the Devils in the New Year.

"We are playing well, we want to get further in this competition and I am confident that if we bring our 'A' game there'll be no problem," said Walser.

"If we don't, if we think that because we are on a good run and we're on home ice that will be enough to win the game, then we could find ourselves in trouble.

"We have beaten them and drawn with them in their rink, but I still think that we owe Manchester one because we haven't played our best game against them."

Walser had spelt out that he wanted to keep the maths simple by winning both legs of the tie, but the Giants had to fight back to get a draw last Wednesday with Chris Higgins scoring the third-period equaliser.

The Giants coach, however, is happy with the scenario that means the tie comes down to a one-off game.

"We did our job. We were on the road in a small rink and although they didn't have their No.1 goalie, the other guy is good," said Walser.

"A 3-3 tie isn't heartbreaking. If we'd gone in there, played our best game and came out three goals down, that would have been heartbreaking."

Walser made a conscious decision to keep Stephen Murphy out of the action when the Giants beat the Nottingham Panthers 7-4 at the SSE Arena on Saturday night because he wanted him to be as fresh and as sharp as possible for this evening and after recording a shut-out against Coventry Blaze on Sunday evening, the Scottish goaltender will approach the tie with renewed confidence.

"Stephen Murphy has been very good and he was outstanding in Coventry," said Walser.

"He has benefited from having some time off and it's unfair for me to expect him to play 65 games a season."

The Giants are aiming to end a three-season trophy drought and the Challenge Cup hasn't been particularly kind to the club.

Long-term Giants fans will remember the ill-fated final against the Ayr Scottish Eagles in 2002 which fell flat in front of a sell-out Odyssey Arena crowd.

They did beat the old Manchester Phoenix in the 2009 decider during Steve Thornton's first spell as coach, but that is the team's only win in the competition after losing three finals in four years from 2011 to 2014 - all against the Nottingham Panthers.

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