Giants steeled for double test of league title hopes
It's the Belfast Giants' final practice before their double-header against the Sheffield Steelers, and Tyler Beskorowany has just gloved a shot as the team practice their powerplays.
"Stay in front of the net Bauner!" smirks winger Darcy Murphy from the sideline.
"How many have you scored today?" is fellow winger Kyle Baun's jesting response, before the two break into wide grins and tap gloves.
It's not just them either, there's jokes being cracked all over the ice but it's all in good spirit.
Twenty one wins in 24 games will do that to a team. But this Giants side have always been like this.
"The guys get along well and it's nice to poke fun at each other every once in a while!" laughs centre Dustin Johner.
"We also have a lot of competition between our powerplay units, so guys are giving each other a hard time when we make mistakes but that pushes us harder in practice.
"It's always a great feeling when you're on a bit of a run. Guys are happy and playing with confidence, but we're still maintaining our focus because we know we can't get complacent."
No team will be gunning for the Giants more than the rival Steelers, who are on an excellent run and would love to continue it by taking down Belfast tonight and tomorrow, both games in Sheffield.
Adam Keefe's side went unbeaten domestically in November and lead the Elite League by three points, however Sheffield have won eight of their last 10 since hiring ex-Vezina Trophy winner Tom Barrasso as coach and have risen to sixth.
"They've been playing well, they've brought in a new coach and they're on a run just like we are, so it's going to be a battle on their home ice," says Johner.
"We haven't played them yet this year but we'll prepare the best we can and play with confidence that we can pick up the four points."
For Johner, who has 14 points on the season, he's just happy to be back on the ice after an injury-hit first year at the Giants.
"Last year was tough where I'd get back for a couple of games and then go down again, so it's nice to be playing healthy, to be able to be out there with the guys and have fun," he admits.