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Walser is urging Giants to make strides in title bid

By Stuart McKinley

Derrick Walser is refusing to contemplate the impact of what defeat to the Cardiff Devils tonight would have on the Belfast Giants' Elite League title tilt.

Instead, the player-coach is driven by the opportunity to blow the race wide open by winning at Ice Arena Wales and cutting the Devils' lead at the top to just three points.

Everything Walser has done since last weekend's Belfast double-header against the Sheffield Steelers has been geared towards the first v second battle in Cardiff and now he says it comes down to nothing other than which team performs best for 60 minutes.

"I don't want to even look at how losing would leave things," said Walser. "I just want to see us go to Cardiff and compete.

"People who know sport know that when it comes down to it it's not about which team has the biggest budget, who had the tougher travel schedule, it's about who plays their best game and if my players go out and give their all then that's what I want.

"If we do that in Cardiff it will be a tight game - 50/50. We don't want the game ending up in the hands of the referee and if we bring our best game then we'll see what happens.

"I do believe that if we bring our best game we will win."

Walser's confidence in his team comes from their recent run of winning 11 out of their last 13 league games.

And even defeat to the Sheffield Steelers last Sunday has in no way knocked the belief he has in his players.

"I thought we had a good weekend against Sheffield," said Walser. "We won the first game, we played at a high tempo and with an edge to our game and we have to go into Cardiff with the same mindset."

The Giants' hot streak allowed them to cut Cardiff's lead at the top from 11 points to just five as the Devils lost three of their last eight home games.

That may have led to suggestions that their new home at Ice Arena Wales had made Cardiff an easier place to visit than their previous unpopular base in the 'Big Blue Tent' in Cardiff Bay.

The tight rink and the icey temperatures on and off the ice made it uncomfortable for visiting teams, but Walser believes the change of venue and the changes in the Cardiff team have been positives for the Devils.

"I think it's harder in Cardiff's new rink because they are a better team now," said Walser.

"They have made adjustments and I think that we are both better teams than we were last year.

"Going to the big rink, they had to make changes. The little rink was tough to play in, they knew that moving to the bigger ice they would need a better team. We have got to be aware of them early and be ready to rally if we need to change anything."

Walser expects to have a full squad available, but Cardiff will be without Patrick Bordeleau after he was given a one-match suspension after a checking to the head offence last weekend.

Belfast Telegraph

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