Belfast Telegraph

Chilled Giants can make Grand Slam history by winning play-offs, says Keefe

Belfast Giants head coach Adam Keefe with the Elite League trophy (William Cherry/PressEye)
Belfast Giants head coach Adam Keefe with the Elite League trophy (William Cherry/PressEye)
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Head coach Adam Keefe believes that his Belfast Giants are in the right place to produce their best performances of the season when they need it most.

The Giants are in Nottingham for the Elite League Play-Off Finals Weekend as they look to complete the domestic clean sweep of trophies by winning the knockout title.

Keefe's side have already won the Elite League crown - edging out the Cardiff Devils on regulation wins after tying on points - and the Challenge Cup, as well as the Erhardt Conference title too.

Now they can become the first side in Elite League history to win the Grand Slam by adding the Play-Off title if they can win their semi-final and then the final at the Motorpoint Arena.

In their way are the Guildford Flames in today's semi-final (1pm), which is a rematch of the Challenge Cup final, with a potential final tomorrow (4pm) against the winners of the other last-four tie between the Devils and the Nottingham Panthers.

But after dominating the Coventry Blaze in their quarter-final to reach Finals Weekend - winning 12-2 on aggregate - Keefe believes his side are relaxed and ready to complete the job.

"There's not a whole lot of stress on us right now, we should feel pretty loose having the season we've had where we've been successful," said Keefe.

"Obviously we can win the Grand Slam, something which has never been done, which is an added motivation, but the main thing is I want the guys to go out and enjoy this weekend.

"It's our last weekend as a club and for some it's their last weekend as a player. I think if we go out and play with that kind of freedom then we'll see the best Belfast Giants side we've seen."

As for the challenge posed by the Flames in today's semi-final, Keefe is well aware that his side will need everything they've got to dispose of the lowest-ranked side in the final four.

Despite winning five of the six regular season games between the pair, it needed a Jordan Smotherman overtime goal and some crucial saves from Tyler Beskorowany to get Belfast over the line in the Challenge Cup final.

"They gave us everything we could handle in the Challenge Cup final and one bounce their way and the trophy could have gone their way," admitted Keefe.

"We're under no illusions, they're going to be extremely good and they'll probably be better than they were in the Challenge Cup final.

"But I think we have better than what we showed in that final and we need to show up and compete like I know we can."

With the Devils hell-bent on getting revenge for missing out on the title and the Panthers eager to make up for a disappointing regular season by winning the play-offs on home ice, it's set up for a thrilling weekend.

The league champion Giants are favourites though, and Keefe is sure that if his players can produce the goods then there's no reason why the Grand Slam won't be coming back to Belfast.

"It's extremely competitive - everyone who makes it to the final four is in it to win it, and everyone plays with their backs against the wall because it could potentially be their last game every night," said the Canadian.

"It's going to be extremely hard to get to the final, but I'm confident if we come out and play at our best then we'll give ourselves every chance to do so."

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