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Giants turn to Ibrahimovic for title inspiration



Matt Pelech

Matt Pelech

William Cherry/Presseye

Matt Pelech

If the Belfast Giants can overcome the deficit in the Elite League and defend their title, then captain Matt Pelech might have a rather unlikely source to thank for it.

Currently, the reigning champions trail the Sheffield Steelers by seven points with 14 games remaining, while they also have the Cardiff Devils and Nottingham Panthers to contend with in what will be a tight title race.

The Elite League is unusual in that it is one of the few ice hockey leagues that prioritises the season-long title over the play-offs, something which the North American players must adjust to.

But ahead of the run-in to the end of the season, skipper Pelech stumbled across an interview that got him in the right mindset for the rest of the campaign.

"I read an interview with Zlatan Ibrahimovic about the MLS and the play-offs, and he said the mentality should be about how you need to be your best over the entire season, not tailoring your game to be hitting your stride at play-off time," revealed Pelech.

"When I first came here, I thought (the league being the priority) was odd and difficult.

"Change is difficult. But after listening to him when he was speaking in the MLS, it made me realise you need to be prepared to be at your best every day.

"I know we've had our good stretches and bad stretches this season, but if we play our best hockey down the stretch then we know we will be able to put ourselves in a position to succeed."

With only a couple of months left in the league, the Giants can't afford many more slip-ups, but Pelech believes they have the capability to find some form. The Giants are back in action tonight at the SSE Arena against the Manchester Storm (7pm), followed by a trip to the Panthers tomorrow.

"Whoever wins this league will get on a run and string some wins together," insists the Canadian defenceman.

"We know the numbers and some loose projections of what will happen but we don't want to worry about those. We'll just handle our end of things and if we can go on a stretch and beat some teams we're chasing, we'll keep in touch with the teams ahead of us."

Belfast Telegraph