Prior to this season, Slater Doggett hadn’t won a trophy as a professional. Now he has two medals to take back to his home in Oakville, Ontario and, hopefully, it’ll be joined by a third.
The Canadian forward has been an integral part of the Belfast Giants’ double-winning squad this season, centring a highly productive second line alongside Ben Lake and Mark Cooper and scoring 19 goals and 48 points in 62 games, helping them claim success in both the Elite League and Challenge Cup.
But the job isn’t done just yet. Tonight the Giants are at the SkyDome in Coventry to take on the Blaze in the first leg of their Play-Off quarter-final (7pm) — with the second leg back at the SSE Arena tomorrow (4pm) — hoping they will set up a Grand Slam shot at next week’s Play-Off Finals Weekend if they prevail.
If they were to add the Play-Off title, the Giants would become only the third side in the Elite League era to do the clean sweep, but that possibility is being put on the back-burner for now by Doggett and his team-mates.
“Keefer (head coach Adam Keefe) was emailing us in the summer when we were getting ready for training camp and he said that there are three trophies and we expect to win all of them,” says the 27-year-old.
“It’s been our goal and we’ve expected to get it done all year, so to be so close to achieving it is super motivating for us.
“We’re treating it as a full reset. Everyone is back to zero points, it’s not a 1v8 game, it’s two teams who have qualified for the play-offs and we now have to beat them over a 120-minute game.
“It’s just a one step at a time mentality because every team has the same odds to win the trophy and we’re definitely not going to treat it as a 1v8 game.”
There were 37 points between the Giants and Blaze in the standings at the end of the season, which suggests this game should only go one way, and also working in the visitors’ favour is that they have already beaten the Blaze in a two-legged tie this season, in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup.
The first leg of that tie has been widely credited as the one that really bonded this Giants roster into one that would go on to win the double as they had to dig deep to take a one-goal deficit back to Belfast due to a short-benched roster. But Doggett warns it could work against them this time around.
“If anything it probably fires them up a bit more,” he opines.
“They have a good team, they put up 10 goals in a game recently so they have some offensive firepower and their goalie, when he’s on, is really tough to beat.
“We’ve just gotta bring our ‘A’ game and I like our chances.”
Beating the Blaze 7-6 at the SSE Arena last weekend also sits in the Giants’ favour, even though it was a dead-rubber game in which they rested the likes of Tyler Beskorowany and their entire top line.
Along with the Sheffield Steelers game the night before, which also had nothing riding on it, it seemed like there was little for the Giants to gain from them. But, rather than just play out the games, Doggett — who scored two goals and three assists — believes they are a better side for how they came away with the two wins as it reflected their nature as a squad.
“Going into (last) weekend, making sure everyone is healthy and the guys who have played a lot of minutes got a break was our priority,” he conceded.
“But I think as those games went on, we were 4-2 up in the Sheffield game and 6-2 up against Coventry and when both of them came back, everyone on the bench was getting really p***ed off. So it started as a get-through-it weekend and then by the end of both games we really wanted to win both of them.
“It was nice getting the two wins, it ended up being a bit of a confidence booster. That competitive fire is what makes us a good team, we don’t want to give up any points to anyone, and we don’t want our season to end this weekend.”