Players bail out coach Keefe with road double
Cardiff Devils 1 Belfast Giants 4
While a four-point weekend in Cardiff will look good in the Elite League standings, the impact it has had on Belfast Giants head coach Adam Keefe is perhaps even more important.
Goals from Patryk Wronka, Brian Ward, Liam Reddox and Ben Lake - on a 5-on-3 powerplay - and 33 saves from netminder Shane Owen saw the Giants to a 4-1 win over the Cardiff Devils at the Viola Arena last night that, coupled with Saturday's 4-3 overtime victory, meant the Giants took both wins against their title rivals on the road in a crunch weekend.
At the end of a tough week for the organisation, which saw the team cut two players from their roster following a four-game losing skid, the two results were a very welcome boost to a side low on confidence and finding goals hard to come by as well.
With the back-to-back wins, the Giants improve to 10-5-2 in the league standings, but even more pleasing will have been the performances from the team, who were the better side on both nights and deservedly walked away with all the points on offer.
Their offense was more creative, the defence kept Owen - and Stephen Murphy on Saturday night - relatively untested and the special teams, which were so poor a week ago, were the foundation of both victories.
And for head coach Keefe, it was also a chance for him to exorcise some demons from the past seven days.
"It's a completely different mood in (the locker room from last week). We asked them for a response this weekend and, boy, did they give it to us," he praised.
"I didn't like my attitude and the way that I dealt with the pressures of the past two weeks, and I thought the guys really bailed me out this weekend. Really proud of them.
"It's great for the team morale, great for the confidence. We always knew we had a good team here. And the new players came in and performed well for us this weekend as well.
"The entire team performance was fantastic this weekend. I can't single anyone out on a positive note or a negative note. It was all positive this weekend. I'm very thankful for that."
Goal-scorer Reddox concurred, adding that he still holds a long-standing belief that this team, when it reaches its potential, can be considerably better.
"It's a great weekend. Great results," beamed Reddox, whose stunning backhanded finish one-on-one with Ben Bowns sealed the deal in the third period, and was his fifth of the season.
"We've been inconsistent and we're trying to define our identity and find our game. I'd say for five periods this weekend we found it, and we got the job done. It feels good.
"We're still learning as we go. As I've said before, it's a process, and it will continue to be a process. The more we can do that and the quicker we can do that, between games and in games, the more we'll have success."
Indeed, the difference between the feeling around the team from one week to the next is stark, as the large and jubilant travelling support in Block 12 of the Viola Arena will no doubt tell you.
Now the challenge is to actually find some consistency after that troubling stretch heading into the Cardiff double-header, and the Giants will get that opportunity when they go to another top side, the Sheffield Steelers, on Wednesday night.
But while things weren't so much fun for Keefe prior to these results, now he's looking forward to getting stuck back in come tomorrow morning once they return to Belfast.
"A week ago we weren't in the best of moods, but now here we are on top of the world. But we can't get caught up in that," warns the head coach.
"It's important we enjoy tonight, but then we have to reset, refocus and get ready to go again on Wednesday. That's a very good team we're playing in Sheffield, they're vastly improved this year and full of offense.
"We lose six in a row, then we win six in a row, then lose four in a row, then win two - it's time to pick up some momentum and have some consistency. Guys really understand that now. It's maybe taken them a month or so, but they get it now.
"I'm looking forward to getting back to work on Tuesday and then getting into Sheffield. Hopefully we can have another performance like this weekend."