After weeks of inconsistent performances and results, Belfast Giants head coach Adam Keefe believes his players finally understand what is required of them if they are to defend their Elite League title.
Keefe made a point of outlining the league situation to his team early last week - the Giants trail the Sheffield Steelers by nine points - and the players responded with their first four-point weekend since January 4 by beating the Glasgow Clan at home and then accounting for the Guildford Flames on the road a day later.
Although they are still nine points behind the Steelers, who also won both of their games last weekend, Keefe was delighted to see his team finally end a galling inconsistent run, and believes that is a sign they are in the right mindset to challenge for silverware down the stretch.
"I wouldn't say we approached the games any differently, I think there's an awareness of the situation of where we're at and the position we're in in the league," claimed the head coach.
"We're down the final stretch here, so we need to make sure we're engaged every game. Now it's about finding ways to bring that level of intensity each weekend for the remaining eight weeks before the play-offs. There's no reason why we can't do that."
While praising the team as a whole, Keefe reserved special mentions for British duo Ciaran Long and Lewis Hook, who have noticeably stepped up into bigger roles over the last month.
Long in particular came to the fore last weekend, providing an excellent assist for Curtis Hamilton's opener against the Flames and then scoring his first goal since October 12 to make it 4-2, prompting some joyous celebrations from his team-mates.
Hook, meanwhile, has moved up to the third line in the absence of the injured Liam Reddox and supplied two assists in the 5-2 victory over the Clan, and Keefe acknowledged the impressive displays of the pair.
"We've put (Long) at centre to change some things around, and with the injuries we have it's a chance for guys to step up and contribute and earn bigger roles. Ciaran has been one of those guys," smiled Keefe. "Hooky has been really good as well. Longer, I'm very happy for him. He had a very solid weekend and he was rewarded for it, not just offensively but defensively as well.
"It's not just me who sees it, it's his team-mates as well and that's good for him."