Belfast Telegraph

Giants need to find spark and emerge from gloom: Keefe

 

Under pressure: Adam Keefe is demanding a response from his players
Under pressure: Adam Keefe is demanding a response from his players
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

With every away game that passes without a win, the same questions keep piling onto the shoulders of the Belfast Giants - and so far they don't have the answers to their own version of Groundhog Day.

Their streak of winless games on the road now sits at seven to start the season and, with a trip to Swedish side Lulea tonight (face-off 5pm UK time) in their final Champions League group match, it will take a huge effort to stop it extending to eight.

However, the concern goes further than just losing games outside of the SSE Arena and extends to how it is the same problems that cause them to keep tasting defeat away from home.

The primary issue is in their lack of goals, which has proven to be a constant crux, with the Giants having struck just 11 times in their seven away games in all competitions while at the same time conceding 26.

In their defeat to the Glasgow Clan on Sunday, the Giants outshot their opponents 42-16 and yet still lost 3-1; and compare their wretched away form to their home form, which has seen them pot 31 goals in eight games.

Head coach Adam Keefe blasted: "Guys are going to have to figure it out. We're doing everything we can to work it out. I don't know if the answer is to shuffle the lines but we'll have to figure it out in a hurry.

"The good thing about playing a team like Lulea is that they won't give us a chance to come out with a half effort or it's going to be a long night for us.

"Somebody in that room needs to put the team on their shoulders and show them the way.

"I'm not doing a good enough job either. Either I don't have the right players on the ice or the right guys in the right spots."

Also concerning for the Giants is that they have either held the lead or been tied going into the final period in all five of their domestic games and have gone on to lose all five, being outscored to the tune of 11-3 cumulatively in the third periods.

Sunday's loss in Glasgow was the most galling yet, the Giants holding a 1-0 advantage heading into the final period only to concede three unanswered goals in the frustrating loss.

Winger Bobby Farnham said of their inability to win on the road so far: "It's a mentality. That's all it is.

"Whenever you get every single guy in the room buying in and wanting to make that play, whether it's our most skilled guy or our so-called least skilled guy, you get success. When we do that we'll be a very good team."

So, to Lulea, and the final game of a CHL campaign that started with so much promise but has ended with the Giants heading to the Coop Norbotten Arena with nothing to play for.

That's not a disappointment given the quality of opposition, and some of the Giants' displays have earned them plaudits from the teams they've faced, but ultimately tonight's curtain call is simply a dead rubber for them.

Crucially, it's a free hit for Keefe to experiment with what he has. With a team that is anaemic in front of goal, and with nothing on the line, the players will have a pass to try anything that will spark some offence.

Keefe added: "We've changed lines enough already this season that it's got to come from within the room. We have to find a way to score."

After giving Shane Owen both starts against the Clan, backup netminder Stephen Murphy could get the start between the pipes in Sweden, while Patrick Mullen looks set to return to the line-up after being scratched twice in Scotland.

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