Belfast Telegraph

Hungry Giants aim to make this their best ever season

Prize guy: Giants’ Paul Swindlehurst with the Elite League trophy
Prize guy: Giants’ Paul Swindlehurst with the Elite League trophy
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

As they prepare to embark on their 20th anniversary season, the Belfast Giants will allow themselves to hark back to last season's phenomenal success one more time before firmly putting it in the past.

Tonight, when the Glasgow Clan come to the SSE Arena (7pm face-off) for the Giants' opening Challenge Cup game, Adam Keefe's side will officially unveil their Elite League champions banner from the 2018/19 season, which will take pride of place alongside last season's Challenge Cup winners' banner.

Once the pomp and ceremony is over and done with, however, game faces go on. Already last season's fantastic treble has been consigned to the annals of history, particularly with 13 new faces on the roster, and now it's about what this season's Giants can achieve just 12 months on.

It's an attitude that has permeated into the team as well, particularly among those who were part of the treble-winning side from last season.

Only seven remain from the squad that added the Erhardt Conference to their Elite League and Challenge Cup double, and it is they who are leading the charge into the new campaign.

"If anything, last season's success spurs you on to more success this year," insists defenceman Paul Swindlehurst, one of the seven returnees to Belfast.

"We had a great year last year, winning three out of four trophies, and this year everybody out here wants to get that again, if not better.

"It gives you a real lift and pride in what you did last year."

Repeating their silverware haul from last season will not be easy though.

Although Belfast have proven they have a talented team this season with their performances in the Champions League, the early signs are that the Sheffield Steelers and perennial title rivals the Cardiff Devils have improved their rosters too.

Even tonight's opponents the Clan - the Giants' nearest geographical rivals - appear to have strengthened, bringing in former player Zack Fitzgerald as head coach and making the eye-catching signing of winger Chad Rau from the KHL and also bringing in netminder Patrick Killeen from the MK Lightning.

But how the Giants performed in the CHL will have given the team no shortage of confidence, producing some inspired displays against some of Europe's best, despite only picking up one win from their four games.

That, for Swindlehurst, is the key as the Giants prepare to open both their Challenge Cup defence tonight and then their Elite League title defence tomorrow evening when they travel to the Manchester Storm (5.30pm).

"In my eyes, we don't make a shift in what we're doing just because we're going back into the league," argues the Team GB defenceman, who will be facing his former team in the Storm tomorrow night.

"We play these teams like we would any team in the Champions League. If we play like we did in the Champions League against the teams from our league then we stand a good chance of doing a very good job this season.

"For us it's about continuing to work hard, trusting the systems that are in place and keep building on those.

"We're changing nothing from how we played against the Champions League teams going into this weekend."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph