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Giants plan to storm to Cup glory

By Stuart McKinley

Derrick Walser has the perfect plan as he attempts to take the Belfast Giants a step closer to their first silverware in three seasons.

His approach to tonight's Challenge Cup quarter-final first leg away to Manchester Storm is straightforward - win the game and next Tuesday's return leg, and a place in the semi-finals against either Cardiff Devils or Dundee Stars will look after itself.

That's a plan that can't fail and Walser believes that crucial to the Giants ambitions to reach the last four is their game management over both legs.

He won't treat it just like any other game, because the nature of the two-legged format means that the mentality has to be different.

"We have to play tight, whether we might be down by a goal or up by a goal," said Walser.

"It's going to be a different type of game. If there is just one goal in it nobody is going to pull their goalie like they would in the league or gamble in any kind of way that could make it harder to win over the two games.

"We can't win the Challenge Cup on Wednesday night, but we could lose it if things go really badly. The main thing is to make sure that doesn't happen.

"We will go to win the game. If we win both games we go through - it's that simple - but we won't go and open up just to win or to score more goals.

"If we do go behind then we have to play smart, play the long game over the 120 minutes, try to claw our way back and not go all out at them because it gets harder if we go two goals behind."

The Giants will go into the game high on confidence. Not just because they are on a three-game winning streak, but due to the fact that they won in Manchester as recently as Sunday night when they recorded a 2-1 victory in the Elite League.

That came 24 hours after a 2-1 win over the Sheffield Steelers at the SSE Arena and although Walser is happy with how his team is playing, he acknowledges that they aren't perfect - but believes that Manchester's home ice offers a perfect opportunity to solve one problem.

"I would like us to be scoring more goals," said Walser.

"If you're only scoring two a game then you have to be very good in defence and you are relying on your goaltender to have a good game too.

"If we can go into Manchester and play the same way as we did on Sunday then I will be happy. The game was broken up by penalties and we couldn't get into a flow.

"If we can get into our stride this time I would be confident that we can play well and if we play well then we are a very good team.

"It's a small rink. You can shoot from everywhere and every shot is a scoring chance."

Walser is awaiting news on a possible suspension to forward Chris Higgins, who was thrown out of Sunday night's game for an alleged spearing offence against Storm's Adam Harding.

The incident is set to be reviewed by the Elite League's Department of Player Safety, but Walser claims any further punishment, in terms of a suspension, would be harsh.

One decision that Walser has already taken is that Stephen Murphy will start in goal this evening.

Jackson Whistle produced two man-of-the-match displays at the weekend, but Walser is in a great position where he has two top goalies competing for the spot.

"Provided Stephen Murphy is healthy he will play. He is fresh after resting at the weekend," said Walser.

Belfast Telegraph

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