Belfast Telegraph

Keefe is lost for words as Giants claim league title


Just champion: Belfast Giants’ Darcy Murphy celebrates scoring in the 6-4 win over Dundee Stars
Just champion: Belfast Giants’ Darcy Murphy celebrates scoring in the 6-4 win over Dundee Stars
Adam Keefe
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

It's not very often that a team will win a league title in a hotel.

But, packed into the function room at the Crowne Plaza at Shaw's Bridge for their end-of-season awards night, the Belfast Giants were crowned Elite League champions as they saw the one result they needed to go their way do just that.

Having finished their own regular season the night before with a 6-4 win over the Dundee Stars, the Giants had to play a waiting game to see if it would be enough to finish top, having tied on points at the top of the table with the Cardiff Devils.

They needed the Devils to lose their final game away to the Coventry Blaze in regulation in order to steal in at the death and win the trophy, with the title race coming right down to the wire.

Indeed, it was in the air right until the very end, however Ben Lake's empty net goal with just a few seconds remaining handed the Blaze a 3-1 win and, as a result, the Giants their first title since 2014.

That, unsurprisingly, sparked massive cheers from players and fans alike in the hotel - and an impromptu verse or two of 'We Are The Champions' - which was music to the ears of Giants head coach Adam Keefe.

"There are no words right now. What a spectacular ending to the story," said Keefe.

"I had the longest 25-minute taxi ride on my way over here during the third period! Thankfully I arrived here with one minute left to see the eruption from our fanbase and our players.

"What a special moment. It'll probably never happen again at the awards night, with the fanbase, our entire staff and every player here. Just to hear that eruption... what a feeling.

"It's a credit to these players for sticking with it throughout the entire season. It's one long, gruelling season when you're competing for the title, it really is tough.

"But for this group to come in, buy in and give everything for the entire season, I'm really happy for every single one of them and for our fanbase."

It was a brutal title race between the two favourites all season, with the pair switching positions throughout the campaign.

At one point the Devils held an 11-point lead that looked to be too much for Belfast to claw back, but a great finish (19-4-1 in their last 24 games) saw them end the campaign with the trophy they craved.

It's the Giants' second trophy of the season after their Challenge Cup title win last month and ends the Devils' two-year stranglehold on the trophy.

Giants legend Colin Shields signs off with a title that he so richly deserves and now Belfast will get the chance to complete a rare treble in the play-offs where, ironically, they will face the Coventry Blaze in next week's quarter-finals.

"I can't (sum that up) just yet, that's such a strange way to win a trophy!" laughed captain Blair Riley. "I guess it couldn't have worked out any better that we all just showed up here at the right time, but I'm still in shock right now.

"We were neck-and-neck the entire way, even into the last couple of weeks. We lost that game in Manchester and people probably thought it was over, but we played the last few games without any pressure and they were probably some of our better games.

"All we wanted to do was put pressure on Cardiff and make them win out, and then that's what happens. On any given night any team can win, and this just proves it.

"Super proud to be part of this team, it's been a long time coming for this organisation and... yeah, it's crazy!"

Belfast Telegraph


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