Doug Christiansen has alerted his Belfast Giants players to the growing pressure in the fight for the Elite League title.
And he has told his team that the only time that pressure will ease is if the dream of becoming champions dies.
Christiansen is driven by a desire for silverware and he is also determined that the Giants will challenge right to the end, meaning that the players will have to deal with the heat being on right until the end of March.
If the Giants can pick up wins away to the Sheffield Steelers tonight and at home to the Newcastle Vipers tomorrow they will make it six wins from five since the turn of the year and so far they’ve picked up at least a point from every game in 2011.
“The only way the pressure is going to be off is if we lose,” said Christiansen.
“While we are winning the games just get bigger and bigger. Sheffield will probably have this down as a ‘must-win game’ and we do too.
“We’ve had pressure all year when we’ve been playing short-benched.
“Even in games when we’ve been down a couple of goals nobody has panicked and a lot of times we’ve gone out and fixed it.
“I don’t have any concerns about the ability of my players to cope with pressure because this is the time of the year when your leaders step forward and in the big games the big players say ‘this is when I’m going to play my best’.
“If they can do that then obviously it increases our chances of winning, which is good for us as a team.”
History shows that Christiansen can cope under pressure too.
It may have been a different kind of pressure that he experienced in his previous job as coach of the Edinburgh Capitals but the Milwakee-native managed to succeed in taking the team to their highest ever finish and into the Play-offs for the first time. That made him the Elite League’s Coach of the Year last season — despite finishing a lowly sixth.
“For me the pressure is exciting,” said Christiansen.
“Every organisation has a level of expectation, they may be different but every team has a fanbase that expects certain things from the on-ice product.
“In Belfast we have a larger fanbase than most, which means the expectancy of success is greater, but that’s what you want as a coach.”
One man who won’t be feeling the pressure of the Elite League title race is Canadian Mike Bayrack.
The 32-year-old has left the Giants to join Austrian side Jesenice.
Christiansen is now looking for a replacement, but he faces a race against time in finding one as, like football, the Elite League has a signing deadline of January 31.
“I don’t have to sign another player, because I like our team and I like the chemistry.
“But I would like someone who will come in and add depth,” he said.