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Giants back on road as Leonard makes a case for their defence

 

By Adam McKendry

While netminder Tyler Beskorowany has taken all the early plaudits for his work in goal for the Belfast Giants, it's worth remembering that the defence are doing their job too.

In last week's Continental Cup, almost as if to prove a point, Josh Roach took a puck to the face in trying to block a shot, while it's notable that Beskorowany hasn't faced too many quality chances over the past few weeks.

That's down to the rigid defensive systems the Giants have created, which has seen them concede just 38 goals in 19 games.

"It helps a lot when you have a goalie like Besko who's going to bail you out when you make a mistake, and in return we bail him out when he makes a mistake," says defenceman Curtis Leonard, who has been at the forefront of the Giants' blueline.

"That's part of being a team, having each other's backs. We don't forget those moments when he has us and he doesn't forget it when we have his back.

"Team defence isn't just the goalie, it's about us buying in and playing the system, collapsing, eliminating chances and odd-man rushes, and when you put all those things together you're going to do well."

Leonard himself has found a new defensive partner in the returning Kevin Raine, and so far the pair have been in shutdown mode when they're on the ice, working to a +/- of +8.

"I think we've found a bit of a connection, we had some good communication early on, asking each other what the other wanted and it went from there," says the Ontario native.

"Once you've got that communication, it's easy to sync with the other person and know where you've got to be on the ice.

"He's a really vocal guy on the ice, so we know exactly where we both need to be all the time, and it makes the game a lot easier and more fun for all of us too."

This week the Giants return to the Elite League, where they're still top of the tree despite sitting out last weekend to play in the Continental Cup.

Adam Keefe's side hold a three-point lead at the top of the standings over the Fife Flyers, Cardiff Devils and Nottingham Panthers, and although their winning streak was snapped by Polish side GKS Katowice last Saturday, they're unbeaten in their last seven domestic games.

This week they face a doubleheader in England, starting with the Coventry Blaze tonight, followed by a trip to the Guildford Flames tomorrow.

"We've been rolling pretty good, even though we had the loss on Saturday I still think we've been rolling pretty good, so we need to keep doing what we're doing," says Leonard.

"We're playing with a lot of confidence and we need to try and carry what we had from the league before (the Continental Cup) into this week.

"Guildford are a really good team, they've got an awesome powerplay and a couple of really good forward lines so they're going to come at us.

"We owe them a bit of a working after they took one from us, but they're a good team and we're not going to take them lightly. It'll be a good contest."

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