Depleted Belfast Giants are lean but mean
Short on numbers the Belfast Giants may be but there is no lack of guts, determination and character in Doug Christiansen’s team.
And no matter what the sport a fair degree of quality and ability comes into play too when you’re sitting pretty at the top of the league.
Christiansen hasn’t used his injury situation — which saw a handful of the players he signed in the summer stay in Belfast as their team-mates recorded a 6-4 win in Newcastle on Saturday night — as an excuse.
The fact that the team has won ten of the last 11 matches despite being depleted means he doesn’t have to.
Neither, however, is he allowing the players to look for an easy reason to take a night off, when they can look around the dressing room at the empty spaces and have justification for performing below par.
Instead collectively the coach and his players have been galvanised and sheer grit has got them through some recent games and with the team performing to a high standard when low on numbers there are ominous signs for the rest of the league when the Giants return to full strength.
Style has gone out the window though. When there is substance and you’ve built up a nine-point advantage at the top of the league, little else matters.
“We have been very short staffed the last three weeks and we have got through these past six games with five wins,” said Christiansen.
“Some of them were not pretty, but being as short staffed as we have been, I thought our guys played gutsy hockey and stepped up to the challenge.
“I am really proud of the effort these guys have shown.”
The Giants did trail at the end of the first period on Saturday, with Jamie Carroll putting the Vipers in front. Once Colin Shields netted the first of his hat-trick midway through the second period, while on a powerplay, the Belfast men never trailed again.
Thanks to Mike Bayrack and Craig Peacock the Giants were 3-1 up before Newcastle scored short-handed through Toms Hartmanis. Both teams then doubled their scoring tallies in the final period. First Shields struck to stretch the Giants advantage just two minutes in and then in the sixth minute of the period Josh Prudden effectively put the game beyond doubt when the Giants went 5-2 in front.
Newcastle still had a little bit of fight, Dale Mahovsky scoring on a powerplay just a couple of minutes later. A flurry of four goals in the space of less than eight minutes was completed when Shields rounded off his hat-trick just before the midway point of the third period to halt any possible Newcastle comeback.
The Vipers did get another goal, through Scott Langdon, but the scoreline didn’t matter to Christiansen, just the result.