Jeffrey Szwez is hungry to get job done for Belfast Giants
Jeffrey Szwez has pointed to the Belfast Giants' run of victories AFTER they clinched the Elite League title as the measure of how hungry the team is to claim even more silverware this season.
The wins have kept coming and the flow of goals has also continued since back-to-back wins in Nottingham secured the crown five weeks ago.
And now Szwez and his team-mates are determined to take the Challenge Cup away from the Panthers as well.
They are halfway there, as the Giants carry a 5-2 lead into the second leg of the final this evening after an outstanding performance in the first meeting at the Odyssey last Friday night.
The speed, intensity and sheer desire that exists in Paul Adey's team is hard for any of their rivals to compete with – and they want to claim the Play-off title too in order to make this the most successful season in the club's history.
"It's been a special year as a team, we all realise that and we don't want to let that go," said Szwez.
"We want to accomplish everything that we can.
"You see it every night. The test came after we won the league when the games meant nothing, but we showed up and even when we were down we really came through almost every time. That speaks for itself.
"It's hard to put into words just what the feeling is within the room, but those results speak for themselves.
"Every game is important to us.There is never a game that doesn't mean anything.
"We're professionals, we're proud of what we do and what we're accomplishing and when things are rolling good you want to keep it that way.
"At the start of the year we did well and we've kept the ball rolling and we expect to win."
It's little wonder that the Giants 'expect' to win.
They haven't lost a meaningful game since an 8-3 defeat in Nottingham in early December and the only defeat in that time came 10 days ago in Fife, when goaltender Andrew Dickson was thrown in for his Giants debut.
The Panthers also lost at the Odyssey on Saturday night in a league game that had nothing but pride – and maybe a psychological advantage – riding on it.
Thirty-two-year-old Szwez was one of the stars of the Giants 2010 Play-off winning squad, before he heading for Germany.
He came back to Belfast last summer with unfinished business to take care of and even though the league is in the bag he isn't ready to settle for that.
"We missed out on the league by one point the last time I was here, but we won the Play-offs," he recalled.
"Now we've won the league and winning is fun. That's what we play for.
"You should expect to win and be prepared to work for it.
"We have two more trophies that we can win this year and I think everybody to a man is focused on doing that."
And if the Nottingham Panthers think that they can increase their level of performance and make full use of having home advantage in the second leg – there is a perceived advantage in playing the decisive game at home – they also need to factor in a Giants team that knows how to win and what it takes.
"We did what we had to do – we had to take advantage of our home game," said Szwez.
"That's the advantage of having the first game at home – and we used that
"We can't give them anything in the second leg, 5-2 is a good lead, but we can't be too comfortable and we'll be ready to play.
"You can't be greedy, 5-2 is a good result. Full marks for what we did. We would have liked to get another goal to have more of a cushion maybe, but we're in a good position.
"We're hungry for it and we're prepared to work for it.
"The first game is over now and it's 0-0 when we go to Nottingham as far as we're concerned.
"We just look at it that if we win the game we win the Challenge Cup – that's what we are focused on."
Szwez has banged in an impressive 35 goals this season – just one less than the Giants leading goalscorer Kevin Saurette – but that tally still doesn't have him in the top 10 marksmen.
The strength of this Giants team is that seven forward have scored 15 or more goals – and two defencemen, Calvin Elfring and Robby Sandrock – have 13 each.
"I know a couple of guys who have big numbers on teams that aren't doing so well. That's OK, you can have as many goals as you want, but in the end it's just all about winning – that's what everybody plays for and everybody wants," said Szwez.
"Nobody remembers how many goals you score if you finish in eighth place. "Everybody in our top two lines has played well all season – that's what makes winning teams.
"It's not about one guy, one star. Some are relied on to score goals, some are relied on to keep the puck out of the net and that's what a team needs. You do well, everyone wins and that's what matters."