Belfast Telegraph

Hamilton: we won't hit the panic button

Ice cool: Curtis Hamilton says Giants will turn things around
Ice cool: Curtis Hamilton says Giants will turn things around
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Winger Curtis Hamilton insists there have been no crisis talks within the changing room after the Belfast Giants lost three of their opening six domestic games.

After some promising displays in the Champions League, the Giants have struggled since returning to domestic action.

Most concerning is a lack of goals, with the Giants failing to score more than twice in five of their opening 10 games in all competitions, while their away form has also been particularly troubling as they haven't won on their travels yet this season and come into this weekend off the back of a 5-2 defeat at the Fife Flyers.

Already they face a battle to get out of their Challenge Cup group, needing one win from their final two games, both of which are on the road.

But in the Elite League the Giants (1-0-1, three points) boast the best win percentage, albeit having played just two games, and that is something they can build on.

"It feels like we've played a lot more because we've been in the Champions League, and then with the Challenge Cup as well," said Hamilton ahead of tonight's return to league duty against the Guildford Flames (2-0-3, four points) at the SSE Arena (face-off 7pm).

"There's no worries at the moment, it's still early in the season, but we do need to be better and start playing better hockey.

"We're taking it in our stride. We're getting good chances, we're just not converting, so we need to bear down and make sure we get them in. The goals will come.

"We just need to work harder. We're a good team, we just need to show a bit more."

While their form outside of Belfast has been patchy, their record in the SSE Arena has been strong with the Giants outscoring their opponents 26-14 in their first six games at home with a 4-1-1 record.

They'll rely on that when the dangerous Flames come into Belfast tonight, with Paul Dixon's side always boasting a fast brand of hockey and a lethal powerplay, quarter-backed by Swedish defenceman Calle Ackered.

With a crucial Cup tie at the Dundee Stars tomorrow (face-off 7pm), in which a win would likely see the Giants reach the knockouts, they could use a momentum boost tonight.

"We've played our best hockey at home, for the most part. We need to get back on track (tonight) and then look forward to Saturday," said Hamilton, who leads the Giants with six goals this season. "They're good. They're an offensive team, they're aggressive. I know a few players, I've played against them before. It should be a good test."

For tonight's game against the Flames, head coach Adam Keefe will be presented with his first healthy scratch decision of the year with a full roster available.

With 15 imports in the squad, one player will have to sit out due to Elite League regulations, which limit teams to 14 non-British players in their line-up.

With only six defencemen on their roster, the natural choice would be for Keefe to stand down a forward, however there is the option of dropping Mark Garside back to the blue-line and sitting a d-man instead.

Giving usual starting goaltender Shane Owen the night off and playing all 14 import skaters is another possibility, however it is likely that Owen will get the nod between the pipes.

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