Not many players get to say they are part of history. This weekend, this Belfast Giants roster have the chance to forever be etched in SSE Arena folklore.
No other Giants side has claimed the Grand Slam of the Challenge Cup, the Elite League title and the Play-Offs. The 2013-14 side came close by winning the league but losing in the finals of both the Cup and the Play-Offs, and the 2018-19 team went closer still by winning the Cup and league, but fell at the final hurdle in losing the final of the Play-Offs.
This weekend, at Play-Off Finals Weekend at the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham, this Giants side aim to go one better.
Standing in their way in today’s semi-final (3pm) are the Dundee Stars and, should they progress from that, then either the Cardiff Devils — who ruined the 2018-19 side’s Grand Slam bid by beating them 2-1 in the final — or Guildford Flames await in tomorrow’s final (5pm).
Two more wins in a season that has already yielded 53 of them to this point and the Giants would enter an elite group consisting only of the 2004-05 Coventry Blaze and 2012-13 Nottingham Panthers to do the clean sweep.
To get a sense of how important it would be, you need only look at how Griffin Reinhart is approaching this weekend, a man who has played in the NHL as well as elite European leagues such as the KHL and DEL, as well as having lifted the prestigious Memorial Cup in Canada.
“It’d be a good feeling knowing you accomplished everything there was to accomplish in a season,” said the defenceman.
“I’m sure there’s a few other teams who had the same goal of winning every trophy and thinking it was achievable, but you only have to look at the fact it’s only been done a few times to see how difficult it is.
“To be a part of history here would be something that would be really special to look back on and say you did. But that’s only if we win. We’re just focusing on the games at the moment, making sure we’re giving ourselves the best chance to get it done.”
On paper, the Giants are favourites to do so. They finished 14 points ahead of the Devils, the second highest seeded team in the final four, and they were outstanding at both ends of the ice throughout the campaign, both scoring the most and conceding the least goals of any team.
And yet play-offs don’t tend to follow rhyme nor reason. Just look at how close the Giants came to being eliminated in their quarter-final by the Coventry Blaze last weekend, needing Scott Conway to score in sudden death in the shoot-out after a 3-3 tie just to keep them alive, before JJ Piccinich’s winner.
They know they won’t have it all their own way against the Stars, either, after the Scottish side impressively knocked out second seeds the Sheffield Steelers in their own quarter-final.
“This isn’t going to be handed to us. There are four teams at Finals Weekend and all of them want to walk away with something from the season,” conceded Reinhart. “We have two already and if we’re content with that, it won’t be us walking away with a third.”
But, equally, the Giants know what is on the line. They’ve had this ambition all season and only two games stand between them and the perfect season.
History beckons. For one more weekend, it’s game faces on and get the job done.
“Everybody understands the situation. We have two games left, so let’s give our all and then enjoy your summer afterwards,” added Reinhart. “I think everybody’s on the same page: give it your two best games and whatever happens, happens.”