Cool Giants can handle title heat, maintains Ferland
Ideally, if he had his own way, Jonathan Ferland would have been suiting up for the Challenge Cup final as the Belfast Giants went back-to-back.
Instead, the 36-year-old forward was on the bench acting as assistant coach as Jordan Smotherman's overtime winner ensured that Belfast would successfully defend their title and end the season with at least one piece of silverware.
Dropping out of the line-up this season isn't an unfamiliar thing for Ferland.
The former Montréal Canadiens winger has been the man to make way when all of the Giants' imports have been available and, as such, has seen his production take a hit in the process, scoring just eight goals and 21 points in 58 games.
To some that might be frustrating. But Ferland is more than happy with how he's contributed to the team as it's exactly what is being asked of him.
"It's fine. I accept the role that I have this season," insists Ferland.
"It's a different role because I've always been more offensive but I accept that role because where I am in my career, I want to win, and if I can help the team in any way I can then I need to accept that role.
"When we have a full line-up, someone has to sit for a few games and it's no problem.
"At the same time I can help behind the bench as assistant coach and learn from Adam (Keefe, head coach)."
As a coach, the Quebec native is relied upon, as someone who has won Championships before, to impart some wisdom to the younger guys in the line-up, particularly down the stretch.
With the Giants trailing the Cardiff Devils by four points in the Elite League standings with just five games to play, it's still very much in the balance where the title will go.
Though despite having won a Calder Cup with the Hamilton Bulldogs, as well as an EBEL title with the Vienna Capitals, securing an Elite League title could be the sweetest of all for Ferland.
"All the other leagues, you play all year to set yourself up for the play-offs, but here you have to battle every night," says the forward.
"They're all play-off games, because a loss at the start of the season is just as bad as one right now, so for me that's why it would be great to win a Championship like this - it's harder to win because you have to be so consistent throughout the season.
"We have what it takes, we've been proving it all year long by coming so close in the Continental Cup and repeating the Challenge Cup, so we have the team to succeed."
With the Devils winning in Glasgow on Wednesday, keeping the pressure on is vital for Belfast, who go away to the Manchester Storm tonight (face-off 7pm) before returning to the SSE Arena on Sunday to face the Sheffield Steelers (4pm).
Ferland is likely to be involved as David Rutherford nurses an upper body injury, while Stephen Murphy (left) should retain his place between the pipes as Tyler Beskorowany remains out.
Rather than feel the pressure, however, Ferland insists the Giants are relishing the challenge over the next couple of weeks.
"This is the big Championship and last year we didn't have a chance at winning it," he says.
"Right now we're in the race and it's fun to be a part of it.
"When you think about it, one game can decide this season, and after six, seven months of hard work it could be decided in one night.
"It's exciting, it's good pressure, it's why you play hockey.
"We're not playing for nothing, we're playing to make sure we stay right on their tail, and as long as we do that we have a chance."