Complacency not an issue for Belfast Giants as they prepare for massive doubleheader
WHEN you're on a winning streak like the Belfast Giants right now, it's easy to get ahead of yourself.
Top of the league having won their last five and 14 of their last 16 in all competitions, not to mention the fact that they're currently halfway through a 16-game road trip, things are looking rather good.
But the word complacency isn't being mentioned within the locker room, and nor should it. So far the Giants are yet to come up against the defending champion Cardiff Devils - although that will change on Sunday - and the ever-improving Sheffield Steelers still lie in wait as well.
It's also worth bearing in mind that, although they've picked up big wins over the Nottingham Panthers (twice) and the second-placed Fife Flyers, the teams they've faced recently aren't exactly title challengers. Indeed, the only stern test they've faced outside of those two games, Guildford, they lost 3-2.
That's not to take away from what's been a sensation run for Belfast, who currently lead the league on 26 points and are clicking throughout the line-up.
"The guys are feeling good after the last couple of weekends, and it builds chemistry when you go through a bit of adversity like (a three-game weekend) and come out ahead," says forward Patrick Dwyer.
"Right now it’s a combination of everything (going right) and we’ve just got to keep riding that wave. Guys are feeling good right now but we know what lies ahead of us.
"That’s what we’re trying to push each other for right now. We’re playing well but we still know what lies ahead, and it’s a long season that’ll have its ebbs and flows, so we’ve just got to keep pushing to make each other better in every practice and come together as a group."
For Dwyer himself, his return from injury was a nice boost for a shortbenched Giants roster, who could have Francis Beauvillier added back to the forward lines this weekend as well.
The former Carolina Hurricane went down a few weeks ago with injury, but made his comeback for last weekend's sensational six-point effort against Fife, Glasgow and Dundee in Scotland, posting three points in Sunday's win over the Stars.
Before his injury, Dwyer had been Belfast's leading scorer with seven goals and six assists for 13 points in eight contests, but now he's been overtaken by the phenomenal scoring exploits of the Giants' top line of Blair Riley, David Rutherford and Darcy Murphy.
That doesn't matter to 35-year old Dwyer, who's excited to rejoin a line-up that's he was delighted to see step up in his absence.
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"That’s the way this team is built, if someone gets hurt or if someone isn’t playing well then there are other people that can jump up and contribute," says the NHL veteran.
"It’s great, if those guys weren’t where they are right now then we wouldn’t be where we are in the win column, so I think it rides with each other. It’s good to see those guys doing well, and when you have a full group of guys going, it’s easier to win hockey matches.
"Personally it was a little adjustment at the beginning of the weekend but, as it wore on, I felt better and better, and when the team’s playing as it is now then it makes it easier to come back from an injury and missing time. But I’m rolling now and feeling good."
This weekend is the biggest test of the road trip so far for Belfast, who make their second foray of the young season into Nottingham tomorrow to take on the Panthers, who have won three of their last five, before a Sunday evening clash with the Devils in Ice Arena Wales.
While Nottingham may be a familiar opponent, with the Giants leading the series 2-1 so far and having taken the only clash at the National Ice Centre, this will be a first meeting of the season between the Giants and Cardiff, who have struggled recently in defence.
The defending champions will pose a massive threat, however, with Great Britain netminder Ben Bowns (2.41, .916) a formidable backstop and the signing of Evan Mosey a smart pick-up after the departure of Ben Blood back to Finland, while forwards Charles Linglet (4-14-18) and Matt Pope (6-10-16) are in strong form.
"First and foremost we have to worry about Nottingham, they’re a team we’ve seen a couple of times and we’ve seen it go each way, so we have to prepare for them," insists Dwyer.
"Obviously Cardiff is a team you hear about all the time, I haven’t seen them yet but we’ve got to be ready for the first game and then we can take care of the second one."
Forward Francis Beauvillier is back on the ice practicing and could return to the line-up this weekend, Jonathan Ferland is still a couple of weeks away... with Ben Blood getting a big money move back to Finland, you wonder if a few teams across Europe might be looking at Giants netminder Tyler Beskorowany after his start to the season... Simon Kitchen will be back on the airwaves next week with Belfast Giants TV broadcasting all six games from the Continental Cup... a wonderful gesture from the ECHL’s Atlanta Gladiators and the Dreams Come True organisation to allow young Giants fan Ethan McClean to attend a few games in Georgia next week... Fiver Friday returns today, with fans able to purchase tickets for the Continental Cup game against Medvescak Zagreb and the Friendship Four game between Boston University and the University of Connecticut for just £5
Saturday 10 November (7pm): Nottingham Panthers v Belfast Giants, National Ice Centre
Sunday 11 November (6pm): Cardiff Devils v Belfast Giants, Ice Arena Wales
Belfast Telegraph Digital