Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Giants 'must hit a hot streak to challenge for title'

By Stuart McKinley

Derrick Walser is planning a new approach in order to take the pressure off his Belfast Giants players in the Elite League title race.

The player-coach has been frustrated by his team's form, with the Giants unable to win more than two games in a row so far this season.

In contrast they have only once lost back-to-back games, but it is the struggle to get on a winning run that is irking Walser right now.

The battle to string more than a couple of wins together doesn't get any easier this weekend as the Giants are faced with their busiest period of the season so far.

They will be expected to take two points at home to the Fife Flyers tonight ahead of the biggest match of the weekend, when the Cardiff Devils - who lead the league by nine points at present - come to the SSE Arena tomorrow evening.

Then there is a trip to Edinburgh in the Challenge Cup on Sunday, but Walser is focusing short-term and isn't even taking things one game at a time, but 20 minutes at a time.

"We've been hot and cold and as well as this being a league where every team is capable of beating everyone else. I think it's also down to a little inconsistency," said Walser.

"As a coach maybe I have let that frustration creep in and it has meant me putting pressure on the guys.

"There's probably been too much pressure and we've talked too much about wanting four-point weekends instead of taking things day by day and getting the first two points before worrying about the next two.

"We all have to learn that in this league it is the regular season title that matters most and that is tough, but this weekend we'll focus on Fife. We'll go at them in the first period and then we'll worry about the second period after that."

It is impossible for Walser to completely ignore the clash with the Devils.

Having lost twice to the Welsh side this season he knows that it is important for the Giants to start reversing that trend if they are to maintain an interest in the title race in the final weeks of the season.

"If we look past the job in hand we can see that Cardiff are starting to pull away a little," said Walser.

"You don't want to see a team getting away and having it won by Christmas so we have to try to get something off them.

"All we can do is control our own outcomes, try to improve the things that we need to be better at and try to win out own games."

David Rutherford will ice this weekend after injury and there was further good news for Walser when Chris Higgins escaped an extra suspension after being hit with a match penalty against Coventry last weekend.

That offence carries a one-match ban, which he served in the win over the Nottingham Panthers the following evening and the Elite League's Department of Player Safety declared that the butt-ending offence wasn't serious to warrant a lengthier suspension and indeed downgraded it to a high-sticking penalty.

Sunday's game in Edinburgh is something of a dead rubber for the Giants, who have already secured their place in the knockout stage of the Challenge Cup, but top spot is still up for grabs and provided they avoid defeat the Giants will leap above the Dundee Stars.

Belfast Telegraph


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