Belfast Telegraph

Hitting summit changes nothing for Giants, insists Ward

Brian Ward battles against the Nottingham Panthers (William Cherry/Presseye)
Brian Ward battles against the Nottingham Panthers (William Cherry/Presseye)
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

It wasn't all that long ago that there were calls for change among a frustrated fanbase as the Belfast Giants battled through a rough spell.

At the midway point of their home double-header against the Manchester Storm, they were in the middle of a six-game losing streak, had just scraped through their Challenge Cup group, were struggling for goals and had yet to win a game outside of Belfast.

How quickly it has all turned around.

Sunday's 6-3 win at the Coventry Blaze was the Giants' sixth in a row, and their third consecutive win on the road, which moved them up to the summit of the Elite League with an 8-1-2 record - albeit tied with rivals the Sheffield Steelers having played three games fewer.

Central to the Giants' resurgence has been an upturn in the number of goals they've been scoring.

Since the start of their winning run, which began with the second game of that Storm double-header on October 20, the Giants have banged in 30 goals - the same number they scored in their previous 12 games.

After an eight-match scoring drought, winger Curtis Hamilton has hit five goals and seven points in a four-game scoring streak, while Jordan Smotherman has soared to the top of the Giants' scoring charts by accumulating points in all but four domestic ties this season.

They've even been getting scoring from throughout the line-up, with defenceman Kevin Raine grabbing three goals in as many games and fellow blue-liners Paul Swindlehurst and Patrick Mullen opening their accounts on Sunday as well.

With netminder Shane Owen's return to form - the Canadian posting three wins with a .948 save percentage in the past week - aiding them in defence, things are ticking over nicely for Adam Keefe's side.

Centre Brian Ward, who was man of the match in the Giants' victory at the SkyDome on Sunday, said: "We were getting a little frustrated (in the losing run) but not too frustrated because we were dominating in most games for 50, 55 minutes, and then we would have those let downs and they'd cost us games.

"That's part of the learning process. We seem to have figured it out, we're burying our chances. We're putting more of a focus on getting to the net, creating traffic, creating havoc and it's paying off for us."

Raine added: "We're just giving the same effort every night. That's six in a row, we accomplished what we wanted to do this week and we're on a roll."

Next up is a trip to rivals the Nottingham Panthers (5-7-1, 11pts) for an away double-header at the Motorpoint Arena on Saturday and Sunday that will arguably be the toughest weekend the Giants have faced so far, despite the Panthers' struggles that see them eighth in the table.

And Ward insists the team aren't getting carried away with their new-found lofty position.

"It doesn't change the way we approach games or how we play. I don't think Keefer's even mentioned the standings," said the centre, who has eight goals and 23 points so far this season.

"We'll focus on the next game, we've done a good job at doing that. It's a long season, where we are now may not reflect where we are in two months, so we have to keep going.

"We're feeling good but we're never satisfied. We enjoy the wins, but we come to work the next day knowing the next two points are just as important as the two we've just won."

Belfast Telegraph


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