Belfast Telegraph

Keefe wants to get smart and avoid paying the penalty


By Stuart McKinley

Adam Keefe wants his Belfast Giants team to play smart in order to avoid penalties wrecking their Elite League title hopes.

The coach believes that at full strength his team is a force to be reckoned with, but spending time in the penalty box is threatening to derail their challenge.

They missed out on the chance to move into top spot in the table on Wednesday night, taking just a single point from an overtime loss to the Nottingham Panthers, who went into first place themselves.

The Giants had been in control, leading 2-1 at the end of the first period before three powerplay goals in the second period from the Panthers saw them surge ahead.

It isn't just the goals that the opposition are scoring when having a man extra on the ice.

Keefe is also concerned that having to kill penalties is blunting his team's attacking armoury and wants them to prove their ability when they have five skaters on the ice.

"We need to be more disciplined," said Keefe ahead of tomorrow afternoon's home clash with Manchester Storm (4pm).

"I have watched the Nottingham game back and some of the calls in real time might have been penalties, but when you see them again you think they could have been different.

"It used to be that a five-on-three was hard to come by - you almost had to stop a certain goal before a referee would call it - but we've had our fair share against us this season."

Keefe, however, isn't going to undertake a radical change of style. It's more of a case of education and being wise to what might happen during a game.

"A lot of the calls have just been hockey plays and I can't fault my team for playing hard, but there would be a few calls that we'd like to have back and we do need to take some responsibility," he said.

"Our penalty kill has been fairly good. It could be better, but the main thing is we stay out of the box because five-on-five I think we can outplay anyone.

"Since I came into this league the referees have been getting tighter on stick offences, so we have to help ourselves by being smarter with our sticks. It shouldn't be a surprise to us.

"We need to get used to the referees too. They have their own individual tendencies and we have to know what certain referees will call and what others might not."

Keefe was critical of his team after last weekend's back-to-back defeats to the Cardiff Devils and Dundee Stars, but he was much happier with the display against the Panthers despite the result.

And now it's a case of wanting more of the same.

"I'm looking more for a performance because I believe that if we play the way we can play and produce a Belfast Giants performance the points will look after themselves," said Keefe.

"I didn't say anything after the game in Dundee. I think the players knew it was an unacceptable performance and it was good to see how they responded."

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