Doug Christiansen last night admitted that the season will be a failure if the Belfast Giants don’t retain the Play-off title.
Two weeks ago the Giants were in the hunt for three pieces of silverware. Now, after seeing Elite League and Challenge Cup ambitions evaporate, Christiansen’s men have a week to ensure that they don’t end the campaign with a ‘nearly men’ tag.
Everything hinges on beating the Coventry Blaze over two matches this weekend and — if successful — winning two one-off games in Nottingham next week.
The Giants will tonight be roared on by the biggest crowd of the season — and possibly the largest of the Elite League era at the Odyssey Arena — with the fans expecting victory.
“The Belfast Giants define seasons by championships,” said Christiansen.
“We want a trophy this season and if we don’t win one then we’ll have failed to live up to the goals that I set at the start.
“There have been a lot of positives this year. We finished with a franchise record number of points in the league, but that wasn’t enough to win it and we want to come out of this season with something.”
Steve Thornton’s reign as Giants coach ended in glory when he celebrated Play-off success in Nottingham last year after missing out on the Elite League title by a single point.
Again the Giants came agonisingly close to winning the league this time around and Christiansen won’t mind if last season’s scenario is repeated.
Not since Ed Courtenay’s final season in Belfast — the 2007-08 campaign — have the Giants finished empty handed and the challenge is on to keep that statistic standing.
“It’s extremely important that we don’t become a nearly team,” said Christiansen.
“Four goals has been the difference between us winning two trophies already this season and being in the position we are now.
“We were beaten by one goal in the Challenge Cup final and were a point behind the league winners.
“I don’t think there is much doubt that we have a very good team in our locker room, we want to prove that and we’ve got one more chance to do that.”
The Giants have won 16 of their last 18 games — with only the Sheffield Steelers and Nottingham Panthers breaking that run and after beating Coventry 7-2 last Sunday the Belfast side will have a psychological edge going into these games.
“There are three things that are key when you’re going into a situation like this, with a two-legged game and then one-off matches after that,” said Christiansen.
“To have any kind of success you need good goaltending and Stephen Murphy has been outstanding for us all year.
“We need good team discipline and our special teams — our penalty kill and our powerplay — need to perform as well.
“It’ll be tough because Coventry were league champions last year and although they’ve finished sixth in the league they’ve been preparing for these games for three months — and that’s big.
“Then it comes down to one-off games on neutral ice and anything can happen.”