Belfast Giants ready to get back to road grind after Euro joy, says Roach
As well as the higher standard of hockey, the Continental Cup provided the Belfast Giants a glorious reprieve from the constant travelling.
Being back in the SSE Arena, being somewhere familiar and being able to sleep in their own beds before heading to the arena for a game was something the players had been looking forward to after 10 games on the road.
That undoubtedly helped with finishing in the top two and qualifying for the Super Final, but that now goes on the back-burner until January with a return to road duty for the Giants.
While they were off gallivanting in Europe, the league didn't wait for them, with their lead at the top being trimmed to three points by both the Nottingham Panthers and Fife Flyers over the weekend.
Their return to the Elite League sees them travel to the Coventry Blaze on Saturday night before tackling the in-form Guildford Flames and their lethal special teams on Sunday.
Even though their winning streak in all competitions was snapped at nine by GKS Katowice on the final day of the Continental Cup, the Giants are unbeaten in seven league games and they'll be eager to immediately bounce back from that disappointment against the Poles.
"Just get back to what we were doing before the Continental Cup," is the assessment of defenseman Josh Roach. "We've been on the road a lot lately but we've been finding a way to grind out wins, so we need to keep that trend going.
"We need to play for 60 minutes. Every team is good in our league and if you take a shift off then they're going to make you pay, so if we can stay consistent then we'll be alright."
The defenseman was key in qualifying for the final stage of the Continental Cup at the weekend, picking up a goal and an assist, as well as a Man of the Match accolade, across the three games.
That now has Roach's season totals at a very impressive three goals and 24 points on the season, with the Saskatchewan native having found a home on the blueline as part of the Giants' top pairing.
And the 26-year old says that he's eager to keep that good feeling from their European experience running when they head into Coventry on Saturday night.
"Coming into the weekend, qualifying was our main goal," he insists. "I thought we played well Thursday and Friday night, but against Katowice they had a lot to prove and we gave them too many chances on the powerplay. In the end I think that's what buried us.
"But it was fun. Playing teams from other leagues, you don't know what to expect because it's a different style, but I thought the boys played well and I think it's going to pay off for us when we go back to our league games."
Jonathan Ferland could rejoin the roster this weekend ahead of the games against Coventry and Guildford, Colin Shields is still a long-term casualty due to blurred vision... the Giants held onto top spot in the latest British Ice Hockey power rankings despite effectively being inactive last weekend... Ethan McClean's trip to Nashville has now hit ESPN and BarDown in the States as more people hear of the brilliant news story... a great night was had by all at A View From The Bridge Live after Saturday's game against GKS Katowice in McCool's bar at the SSE Arena, and it was great to see Patrick Smyth back home again to compere the event... all four Friendship Four colleges are now in Belfast and have been practicing at the SSE Arena, with a Thanksgiving dinner planned for them tomorrow night.
Belfast Telegraph Digital