Belfast Giants' title hopes rest on Cardiff and Glasgow clashes
After 52 games over seven months with plenty of sweat, a little bit of blood and probably a few tears, the Belfast Giants’ Elite League title hopes rest on the outcome of matches in Cardiff and Glasgow tonight.
While the Giants will be out to exact some small revenge on the Nottingham Panthers in the National Ice Centre after their Challenge Cup final defeat in midweek, coach Doug Christiansen is only too well aware that it’s events elsewhere that will dictate whether his team has a chance to become champions tomorrow night.
The Sheffield Steelers hold the upper hand, but only just. They have 83 points, as do the Cardiff Devils, with the Giants one point behind.
Only a slip up from both teams will open the door for the Giants and while the Sheffield Steelers face Braehead Clan home and away, the biggest game of the weekend will be in Wales tonight.
If the Cardiff Devils are victorious against the Coventry Blaze then the Giants chances will all but come to an end.
Mathematically they will still be in the hunt, but a game against a seriously depleted Edinburgh side is as close as you’ll get to a ‘gimme.’
Two points are virtually guaranteed for the Devils in that game on Sunday night, when the Giants face Coventry themselves.
“There is no bigger fan of Coventry Blaze this weekend than me,” said Christiansen, who made a ‘good luck’ phone call to Blaze coach Paul Thompson last night.
“We need other teams to do us a favour, but for me it’s very simple, we’re not out of it, nobody has eliminated us yet and we’ve just got to keep on winning.
“If Cardiff win against Coventry then I do think we’re out of it. I just don’t see them losing to Edinburgh under any circumstances.
“We’ve got to hope Coventry can do something and if they do it’ll make for an exciting night on Sunday when three teams will be playing to win the league.
“I hope that’s what happens. I believe there will be another twist, I don’t know where exactly, but I hope there will be two.”
Goaltender Stephen Murphy has been outstanding of late and it is vital he maintains that high level of form if the Monteith Bowl is to be adorned with teal and red ribbons.
Christiansen had to pick his players up off the floor after the Challenge Cup defeat to Nottingham and now the message is, to make sure that if a chance to win
the league does appear, that it is grabbed with both hands.
“We’ve had some disappointments. Losing a Cup final in your own building is not a lot of fun and having someone else take control in the league was tough to take,” said Christiansen.
“There is still a lot to play for, but we need to be playing at our best and if the other teams do slip up we have to make sure that we win and can take full advantage.”