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Walser warns Steelers: Stay out or you'll pay penalty

By Stuart McKinley

Published 08/01/2016

Duel: Mike Radja closes in on goal against Coventry netminder Brian Stewart
Duel: Mike Radja closes in on goal against Coventry netminder Brian Stewart

Derrick Walser has warned the Sheffield Steelers to stay out of the penalty box or else his Belfast Giants team will pick them off.

The Giants powerplay is red hot right now, scoring 11 times when having a numerical advantage out of 18 opportunities in the last five games.

And after previously being concerned about not scoring enough goals, Walser is confident that, with a player like Mike Radja now finding his best form of the season, even when even handed his team has enough scoring prowess to win both of this weekend's tussles with the Steelers at the SSE Arena.

"We are finding ways to score and it's always good when your powerplay is hot too," said the Giants player-coach.

"We don't want to rely on the powerplay to win us games, because when it doesn't click we could struggle.

"We have three lines who are different, but they are all contributing.

"We have made teams pay the price for taking penalties, so don't take penalties against us."

The Giants have won seven times in eight games since they lost 3-1 to the Steelers in Sheffield on December 13.

That superb run has moved Walser's men into second place in the Elite League, a point ahead of Sheffield and three behind the Cardiff Devils.

The Giants will cut that to just a single point if they beat the Steelers tonight and with three games in hand over the Welsh side the title race is beginning to really hot up.

And as the pressure mounts, Walser is predicting that nerves could take over.

"First of all we want to increase the gap between us and Sheffield," said Walser.

"It's getting tight and the more teams stay in the race the more difficult it is going to get.

"The stress will come in and that's a factor.

"We haven't lost too many points. We haven't slipped up too often, but the big weekends just keep coming.

"After two games against Sheffield this weekend we have to go to Nottingham and Cardiff next weekend, so the pressure never really comes off."

One man not showing any pressure at the minute is Radja, who tops the Giants scoring charts with 19 goals.

After being the odd man out when he was left behind for the trip to Braehead Clan on December 27, Radja has struck five goals in the last three games and Sheffield will need to keep a close eye on him tonight and tomorrow.

"Mike Radja is a natural goalscorer and the purest goal-getter that we have," said Walser.

"It would probably be between him and James Desmarais if we had to give a guy just one shot - they'd be top of the list.

"He is a great example of hard work paying off. He gets himself into the right areas and when you keep doing that chances come your way."

Belfast Telegraph

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