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Walser challenges Giants to lead the life of Riley

By Stuart McKinley

Published 21/10/2016

In-form: Blair Riley leading from the front for the Belfast Giants
In-form: Blair Riley leading from the front for the Belfast Giants

Derrick Walser wants the rest of his Belfast Giants players to follow the lead of in-form goalscorer Blair Riley.

And the player-coach is also demanding that lessons are learnt from the past after the Giants kick-started their Elite League title challenge last weekend.

Riley enhanced his ever-growing reputation in the UK by grabbing the match-winning goals in both Giants victories last weekend, against Coventry Blaze and the Nottingham Panthers.

Now the challenge that Walser is laying down is for his team to keep that run going by securing two more wins in this weekend's home double header with Blaze.

Too many times last season he was left frustrated when the Giants failed to follow up four-point weekends with further victories.

That is key if they are to wrest the title away from the Sheffield Steelers and Riley will have a big part to play in that.

"Blair just does everything," said Walser. "He plays hard, he works hard, he never stops moving his feet.

"He is the key to that line. He does all the little things. He's just a workhorse, he's living up to his reputation.

"We're so happy. Everything we heard about him was A-plus and he's just proving to everyone that he's a great player."

Walser is concious not to put too heavy a burden on Riley's shoulders, but thus far it hasn't been a problem for the 30-year-old, who scored three times last weekend.

Injuries to Alex Foster and David Rutherford mean it will be Riley who will be again looked to for goals this weekend, but Walser is hopeful of having Higgins back in the line up.

"Right now we are leaning on him a lot, but we've had injuries and now we've got to find some other guys to lean on to."

"This is a team league. It's not a one player or a one line league. If you don't have a team eventually you're going to run cold. We're going to ride on him as much as we can and hopefully other guys start following his lead and how hard he works and it becomes contagious and we continue to grow like that."

The back-to-back wins last weekend were the Giants first in a month. With three games in hand over joint-leaders Nottingham and Cardiff it will take a while for the title race to straighten out.

In the meantime Walser wants to keep as much pressure as possible on the top teams.

"We had a great character weekend and now it's just to build on it," he said

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