When he re-signed for the Belfast Giants this season, winger David Goodwin made a point of discussing the “unfinished business” that he felt he had in the Premier Sports Elite League.
The last time he played in Belfast, in the ultimately doomed 2019-20 season, the St Louis native never got the chance to truly contest a Championship. He was parachuted into the middle of a Challenge Cup campaign that would end in a whitewash at the hands of the Cardiff Devils in both legs of their quarter-final, and the league — which they realistically weren’t going to win anyway — was stopped short due to the onset of Covid-19.
This time around, things are different. This time they are definitely in the hunt for the league title, just two points behind leaders the Sheffield Steelers going down the stretch, and now they have a Challenge Cup final to look forward to as well, with the Devils coming to Belfast on March 16 for the decider.
The Giants may win both. They may win neither. But at least this time Goodwin will get to have a sizeable say in both, and this time he will do so as captain.
“That’s why I came back here. I want to bring a trophy to this city more than anything, obviously for the guys in the locker room but also for the city, for the fans,” he said.
“This city means a lot to me and we’ve put ourselves in a great position. One more step in the journey for the Challenge Cup and we’re really pumped about it.
“They’re a huge reason why we play as hard as we do, for the fans, for the city of Belfast. We have guys like young Dáithí (Mac Gabhann) and Blake (McCaughey), guys we would go to battle for every night, and getting this one for them is huge.”
But with three weeks to go until that Cup final, life goes on in the meantime and the league push takes over once more when Adam Keefe’s side head to the Coventry Blaze tonight before hosting the Manchester Storm at the SSE Arena tomorrow.
With the Steelers looking a little vulnerable — the leaders have lost three of their last four in all competitions — the Giants know they can’t afford to slip up and let their rivals off the hook, especially given they face each other in five potentially season-defining games before the season reaches its conclusion.
But while there is a need to park Wednesday’s Cup semi-final win over the Nottingham Panthers and move on, there is also merit in holding onto aspects of that performance and building on them for the trip to the SkyDome and the Blaze tonight.
“I would say we need to do a little bit of both. We know we have to turn the page and start focusing on Coventry, but we also don’t want it to get lost that we’ve just beaten a really good team and we want to stay confident. We feel when we play confidently then we can beat anyone,” added Goodwin, who has 20 goals and 52 points this year, playing on that lethal top line alongside JJ Piccinich and Scott Conway.
“You do need to enjoy the wins, otherwise what drives you if you don’t enjoy them? So we’ll do a bit of both but ultimately we need to be ready for Saturday.”