Belfast Giants set for fresh look in race for honours
Doug Christiansen has launched a double bid to bolster the Belfast Giants’ Elite League title challenge.
And if the Giants coach gets the swift response that he is hoping for then tonight’s Odyssey Arena clash with the Dundee Stars will be the last game his team will face before reinforcements jet in to join the fight.
Christiansen’s three-week player search looks to be over and if the terms on offer to the two players he has targeted are accepted then the Giants will set the wheels in motion to get them to Belfast in time to face Coventry Blaze in a home double header next weekend.
“We have offered one contract and another one is ready to be offered,” Christiansen told the Belfast Telegraph last night.
“What the players do now will determine how long it takes to get them here, but I would be hopeful of having them for the Coventry games.
“I definitely want to get one player in, two would be beneficial, but it’s not an easy time to be looking for players — especially the kind of players we want.
“If we were looking for a role player we could sign 10 players, but we need someone who is going to make an impact and they aren’t so easy to find.”
The season-ending injury sustained by Benoit Doucet — he will have surgery to repair his damaged cruciate ligament on Thursday — and the loss of Brock McBride when he received a better offer from a club in Slovenia has been sustained so far by those left behind.
In particular the Great Britain internationals — who will also have Christiansen as one of their coaches for the World Championship series in April — have come to the fore. Craig Peacock has been a consistent goalscorer all season, but now Graeme Walton has found the target three times in recent weeks and Robert Dowd marked his return from injury with a great double strike against Dundee on Monday.
His goals were still significant despite the he fact that the Giants lead 2-1 when he scored as it ensured there was no comeback.
“We knew when we signed Robert Dowd that we were getting a good hockey player,” said Christiansen.
“All he has done is proved us right.
“Craig Peacock is a different player compared to 12 months ago and he has been outstanding offensively.
“Mark Garside is the best defensive centre in Great Britain and he’s improving too.
“When you lose players and others, who aren’t usually impact players, step up and make a real contribution to the success of the team it encourages everyone.
“It’s also very pleasing for me as a coach when different players are scoring the goals.”
Now Christiansen is hoping that some home comfort — no flights or ferrys to catch and consistently sleeping in their own beds — will have an impact on his players.
The next five games are all at the Odyssey, indeed it won’t be until January 25 that the Giants will be on the road again, and Christiansen is calling on his players to make the most of that home run to collect a full haul of 10 points so that their three point lead at the top of the Elite League table can at least be maintained.
“Now we’ve got to make the Odyssey a fortress,” he said.
“We are at home a lot in the next month and those are all games that we have to be looking to win.
“The players have been great in adopting a ‘defence first’ mentality.
“This is a group of players that competes every night. They work so hard in practice every day and they work hard in their games.
“We had a period where we were hit heavily by injuries and when you face that kind of adversity different qualities in your team come out.
“I think that the players have greater confidence in themselves having come through that adversity the way they have than if it hadn’t happened — so good has come out of bad.”