Giants coach answers his wake up call
Derrick Walser has admitted losing sleep as he strives to make the Belfast Giants successful. That might seem like a lot of individual pressure, particularly when you consider that Walser is less than 18 months into his coaching career and add in the fact that he is continuing to play as well, but the 38-year-old won't judge success by counting the number of trophies lifted at the end of the season.
The Giants haven't managed to put a trophy in the cabinet since running away with the Elite League title under Paul Adey back in 2014 and although the fans in Belfast have a demand for silverware, Walser believes a third successive trophy-less season wouldn't necessarily mean a bad campaign.
While that might be the case, it doesn't mean that he is ready to settle for second best.
An eight-game winning streak in the league has seen the Giants go from being 12 points behind leaders Cardiff to a position where by the end of this week that gap could be down to just two.
There is also a two legged Challenge Cup semi-final against the Devils looming on the horizon in the New Year and the Play-offs to come at the end of the campaign.
"It's professional sport, you play to win and we'll be fighting until the end to try to do that," said Walser, ahead of tonight's league battle with Manchester Storm at the SSE Arena - the third meeting of the teams in less than a fortnight and the Giants have yet to suffer defeat.
"I probably lose more sleep that I let on, but I am very happy that we are getting better.
"If we can match what we've done so far this season, keep our compete levels high and not leave anything out there, that's all I can ask.
"If we continue to do that then we'll be right there at the end of the season."
Its won't be until the end of the season that Walser will be able to fully judge how good a season it has been, but at the halfway stage the Giants are still realistic contenders for all three prizes.
"We'll see where we are in the last month of the season and by then we want to still be fighting on all fronts," said Walser.
"If we are in the Challenge Cup final, close at the top of the league and then have the Play-offs to come, I can satisfy myself that it's been a successful season."
Captain Adam Keefe is expected to return to the line up tonight after he sat out the 5-1 win over Braehead Clan on Boxing Day.
Walser's goaltender rotation policy is likely to mean that Jackson Whistle comes in to the line up to give Stephen Murphy a night off.
The benefits of regular rest time have been evident in the performance of both goalies, particular over the last two weeks when Murphy shut out Coventry Blaze and Whistle did the same against the Edinburgh Capitals. Face off tonight at the SSE is 7.00pm.