On song Belfast Giants have the X Factor
Belfast Giants 7 Dundee Stars 3
It was party time for the Belfast Giants last night.
And nobody could deny Doug Christiansen and his players the opportunity to celebrate.
A rare Sunday night off meant a chance to rest and relax — and also enjoy themselves as the festive season kicks in.
A Christmas knees-up was preferred to a night in front of the television, but the Giants already know that they have the X Factor and Saturday night’s 7-3 win over the Dundee Stars ensured that Christiansen and his men will be number one for Christmas.
The plan is now to spark an even bigger party three months down the line by claiming the Elite League title.
“It was a good win and with the situation we are in, having so many players out injured, the guys came through great,” said Christiansen.
It is the 15 games after Christmas — until mid-February — that will go a long way to determining whether or not the Giants will be champions and with a dozen of them taking place at the Odyssey they will be hard to stop.
The Giants’ Saturday night seven-up blew away the Stars. They had no response to a three-goal blitz in the first period and by the time they garnered a response it was much too late.
Mike Bayrack, Dan Welch and Craig Peacock — on a powerplay — laid the foundations for the landslide victory.
Brent Hughes replied, but Peacock and Jeff Mason struck before the game hit its midway point and at that stage the game was up, with the Giants leading 5-1.
Dan Ceman and Steve Makway did give the scoreline a bit of respectability for Dundee, that was short-lived though as Michael Jacobsen and Bayrack extended the lead to make it a comfortable victory.
Christiansen’s secret Santa has already delivered him an early present in the shape of local lad Gareth Roberts.
The 24-year-old has been practising with the Giants over the last couple of months and got his chance on Saturday. It was an opportunity that he grabbed with both hands and Roberts will play again when the Edinburgh Capitals visit the Odyssey this weekend. “Gareth got a regular shift and he played well,” said Chris
tiansen. “He made mistakes, the kind of mistakes I expect a young, inexperienced player to make, but what he has got is a great deal of potential and we’ve seen him go into a game and compete.
“I gave him his opportunity early in the game which helped. He got a string of shifts, which not only gave him confidence in himself, but also gave the team confidence in Gareth that he was doing a good job. Given how short we are with bodies he is a real asset when he can come in and do that. Gareth will play again against Edinburgh and we’ll take it on a game-by-game basis, but he has earned another opportunity.”
With Peacock bagging himself a brace and Nathan Craze impressing in goal as Stephen Murphy was given a night off against his hometown team, Christiansen is benefiting from his young British-qualified players showing that they are more than capable of competing at Elite League level, when a decade ago UK born players were a rarity at domestic level.
“Nathan is the first player at practice every day and the last to leave,” said Christiansen.
“He did a good job and with four games in five nights coming up after Christmas he’s shown that we don’t need to have any worries if we need to call upon him in any of those games.”