Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Giants' fortunes stay on the rise

Belfast Giants 1 Coventry Blaze 1

What a capture the double-signing of Stevie Lyle and Peter Campbell has been for the Belfast Giants.

And Shane Johnson's return to the Odyssey has proved to be a masterstroke too.

Before they came into the team Ed Courtenay's men had won just three times in 13 games.

Now, four games later the team has clocked up four successive wins, with Campbell scoring five times and goaltender Lyle stacking up the man-of-the-match awards.

Although last night's hard fought 1-1 draw with Coventry Blaze was earned through a team effort the former Basingstoke Bison pair had the most decisive impacts on the game.

Campbell put the Giants in front with less than four minutes on the clock and although Sylvain Cloutier found a way through in the 13th minute Lyle was equal to everything else that the Blaze could throw his way.

Player-coach Courtenay had threatened changes for a couple of weeks before he brought Campbell and Lyle into the team, just a couple of days after Johnson's return to the Giants was confirmed.

All along the coach said that he wasn't going to make changes for the sake of it and any players who came in would have to be of the right quality.

Well, his patience has paid off and although it is early days in the Giants revival there is sure to be a feeling in the locker room that the 11 point gap to league leaders Coventry can still be overhauled - especially as the teams have met only once in the league so far.

Lyle, Campbell and Johnson haven't transformed the team on their own, but they would seem to be the missing pieces in the jigsaw that have made everything else click together.

And last night's result in the Challenge Cup has given the Giants a major psychological boost ahead of Coventry's return to Belfast for a league meeting in four weeks time.

Although maybe Courtenay will now be wishing league points had been up for grabs.

We won't find out until the end of the November if the fixtures would have suited the Giants better had they been the other way around.

In terms of anything else, last night didn't matter much because the Giants were already out of contention for a semi-final place in the Challenge Cup, but holding Blaze to a 1-1 draw and doing it with such spirit is a real boost for a team with just 12 skaters currently available.

The game in Basingstoke tomorrow night doesn't have much riding on it either, but a win would be worth more than just the points.

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