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Belfast Giants will have to be much better if we want to secure Play-Off joy, warns head coach Adam Keefe

Belfast Giants 2 Coventry Blaze 1 (SO) (Agg: 4-3)

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Good feeling: Belfast Giants’ David Goodwin celebrates scoring his penalty against Coventry Blaze. Credit: William Cherry/Presseye

Good feeling: Belfast Giants’ David Goodwin celebrates scoring his penalty against Coventry Blaze. Credit: William Cherry/Presseye

William Cherry/Presseye

Good feeling: Belfast Giants’ David Goodwin celebrates scoring his penalty against Coventry Blaze. Credit: William Cherry/Presseye

Belfast Giants head coach Adam Keefe cut a weary figure in the SSE Arena yesterday. And this was after his side qualified for the Elite League’s Play-Off Finals Weekend with a 4-3 aggregate win over the Coventry Blaze in their quarter-final tie.

I feel like I lost a year off my life there,” he managed to joke.

That is because, although they are through, the Giants were anything but convincing over the course of two legs.

They were second best in the first leg in Coventry on Saturday night, somehow surviving to bring a 2-2 tie back to Belfast, and were only marginally better in game two in Belfast.

Their control of the game was much better and they should have won it in the third period or overtime without the need for a heart-stopping shoot-out that went 10 gripping rounds, but it still needed the shoot-out for them to progress after Tyler Soy’s goal was cancelled out by Conner Chaulk’s equaliser, and it also needed another typically outstanding display from netminder Tyler Beskorowany — who saved six of 10 shots in the shoot-out — to allow J.J. Piccinich’s winning shot in the 10th round to send them through.

The Giants can’t complain too much. After all, they are through to Finals Weekend in Nottingham this week, which is more can be said for the second-seeded Sheffield Steelers, who were knocked out by Dundee Stars, and Nottingham Panthers, who were beaten by the Guildford Flames.

But they know they have to be much better in Saturday’s semi-final, which will be against the Stars, than they were against the Blaze, who were one shot in the shoot-out away from progressing after Janne Kivilahti scored in sudden death, only for Scott Conway to keep it going with yet another huge shoot-out goal for the Giants.

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“At the end of the day we are through to the final four, which is not an easy thing to do. But we need to learn a lesson on how to control games, which we didn’t do this weekend,” added Keefe.

“I thought we were lacking something this weekend. I can’t put a finger on it. I have to take a bit of responsibility for it and correct it for next weekend and make sure we’re getting back to the exciting brand of hockey we’ve been playing. It’s going to take that in Nottingham if we want to have success there.”

Soy had put the Giants ahead at 5:50 of the second period when he banked the puck in off Blaze forward Ryan Penny, but just over two minutes later Chaulk tied it when he went one-on-one and beat Beskorowany five-hole.

The Giants could have easily won it in the third period as they applied pressure, particularly on a late powerplay with Dillon Eichstadt off for delay of game, and then Piccinich hit the crossbar in overtime, however it would need the shoot-out to decide it.

David Goodwin looked to have won it in round five when he scored, only for Ryan Curran to force sudden death when he scored the Blaze’s final shot, and then Conway did the same after Kivilahti had beaten Beskorowany in round six.

But after the Giants netminder produced more heroics with three more saves, Piccinich was the hero in round 10 to keep their Grand Slam hopes alive — just.

In the other semi-final, also on Saturday, the Cardiff Devils will take on the Flames with the winners meeting in Sunday’s Grand Final, with all three games at Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena.


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