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Giants bring back Great Britain internationals Lake and Garside as new man Baum signs up

 

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Belfast Giants forward Ben Lake playing for Great Britain against Denmark (Pic: Dean Woolley)

Belfast Giants forward Ben Lake playing for Great Britain against Denmark (Pic: Dean Woolley)

Belfast Giants forward Ben Lake playing for Great Britain against Denmark (Pic: Dean Woolley)

The Belfast Giants have announced the returns of Great Britain internationals Ben Lake and Mark Garside, while defenceman Jeff Baum has signed up for the 2021-22 season.

Garside is back for his 11th season at the SSE Arena, while Lake returns for his second after moving to the team in 2019, with 2017 Friendship Four alumnus Baum signing up for his professional hockey debut next season.

The Giants have now signed nine players ahead of their return to action in September, when they will play their first games in 18 months after last season's Elite League was cancelled, with Garside and Baum providing stability on the blue-line, while Lake will be a scoring option for head coach Adam Keefe.

"Preparations for the next season are gathering pace and we’re pleased to add these key players to our growing roster," commented the head coach.

“We’re excited to have Mark Garside and Ben Lake back in Belfast this season; their experience, combined with their passion for this club and hunger to chase trophies is exactly what we need.

“We’re also looking forward to welcoming Jeff Baum back to Belfast – we have kept a close eye on him ever since the Friendship Four and he will bring a welcome injection of fresh energy to the team.”

Garside will join Ciaran Long and Lewis Hook as part of the British contingent, while Lake, despite being a British international, will count towards the team's import number as he played his junior hockey in Canada.

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The pair were both part of the EIHL Series - Garside dressing for the Nottingham Panthers and Lake for the Manchester Storm - and the GB squad for the recent World Championships in Riga, Latvia, but both players revealed they were never signing anywhere else this season.

Both are quality additions to the roster, with Garside having been a reliable EIHL option for the team since he joined in 2010 and is now a veteran leadership presence in the locker room.

Still just 32, the Scot is capable of filling in at forward but will be primarily relied upon on defence, and will hope to add to his three league and two cup titles already won in Belfast.

“I like that we try to compete every year for the league title; winning is fun and I like the pressure of that as well – that pressure leads to a real sense of satisfaction when you do win trophies; it’s all about that for me," said Garside.

“I’m very excited to be coming back to Belfast. I remember skating out on my first night in Belfast and there were a lot more people than I was used to. The year away has probably built that excitement up again – I can’t wait to get back in front of the fans.

“Every player that’s played here before – and there’s a few of us coming back – we remember the games like Cardiff where we had the full bowl and games with an electric atmosphere and it’s exciting to think we’re going to be able to do that again.”

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Mark Garside. Credit: William Cherry / Presseye

Mark Garside. Credit: William Cherry / Presseye

Mark Garside. Credit: William Cherry / Presseye

 

Lake, meanwhile, was head-hunted by Keefe after two excellent seasons with the Blaze and then a strong World Championships campaign with GB in 2019, and will likely be relied upon as one of the Giants' top offensive options next season.

In his first season with the Giants, the dual-international posted 14 goals and 42 points in 61 games and was selected for the GB squad for both the Olympic qualifiers in Nottingham a year ago and the more recent World Championships in Riga.

“Coming back to Belfast was a no brainer to me; I told Keefer and Steve that they don’t need to really sell the club to me anymore. My last season with the Belfast Giants was such a fun season and it was obviously cut short, so there’s definitely a little unfinished business," said Lake.

“I wouldn’t want to play for any other team in the League, which is what I told them going into negotiations, so to be able to get a deal done and be able to come back is very exciting.

“I’m looking forward to it; looking forward to playing in front of the fans again, to be back in The SSE Arena. We have one of, if not the best fan base in the League. I can’t even really put into words what it will be like.

"Playing in front of nobody over this last season was such a strange feeling; everyone will be looking forward to it, especially the fans and the players will be really motivated to put on a good show and get the fans on their feet.”

New man Baum is less of a known quantity given he is taking his first steps into professional hockey this season with the Giants, but the team have a successful track record of picking up NCAA graduates in the past.

Darcy Murphy and Liam Morgan are two players who featured at the Friendship Four in recent years and both had success in Belfast, so the hopes are high that Baum can follow in their footsteps having played at the 2017 tournament with Providence College.

Baum, 25, played just one season with the Friars before transferring to American International College, where he manned their blue-line for three years, racking up three goals and 15 points in 74 games for the Yellow Jackets.

Primarily a stay-at-home defenceman, the Texas native admits he was always intrigued by Belfast after playing in the Friendship Four and is now thrilled to get the chance to play there on a regular basis.

“During my freshman year, I got to play at the Friendship Four in Belfast. It was awesome. I’m really looking forward to coming back – this time I actually get to wear the jersey and hopefully be helpful for the team," said Baum.

"I always hoped and dreamed that maybe one day I would be able to – I’m excited. I’ve heard a lot of great things about the fans in Belfast and I’m looking forward to seeing a packed barn.”


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