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Top line success for Belfast Giants in ninth straight win

By Adam McKendry

The top teams have those instantly recognisable forward lines that produce points every game.

In the NHL, the Pastrnak-Bergeron-Marchand line is one of those for the Boston Bruins, as is the Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen trio for the Colorado Avalanche.

For the Belfast Giants, their top line of Darcy Murphy, Blair Riley and David Rutherford have been similarly lethal this season.

They've been all averaging at least a point a game in the league, with Riley leading the team in goals (12), Rutherford leading the team in assists (18) and Murphy also pointing consistently with 22 on the season.

And so far they've brought that form into Europe as well, the top line combining for three of the Giants' six goals in their 6-2 win over Ritten Sport yesterday, with Murphy adding an assist on Jonathan Boxill's finish.

"We have some chemistry, we've played for the last couple of years together," says the 26-year old winger, who was Man of the Match in the victory.

"Rudy and Riles are such great players so for me it's all about finding the open ice for them to find me.

"It's nice because you get to know their tendencies quite quickly and you get a little more familiar with them as the game goes on, so it makes it easier for all of us."

It's been impressive in general for the Giants, who maintained their recent nine game winning streak and increased their overall run to 18 wins in their last 20 in all competitions.

On top of that, they've conceded only three goals in their last four games, which has seen them dispatch two title rivals in the league and put one foot in the Continental Cup final.

"The main thing that we can take away (from this streak) is that we're a good team," insists Murphy.

"When we play like we know we can play then we're going to be a tough team to beat, so we need to focus on ourselves the most and make sure we do what we know we can do.

"We're on a pretty good streak and we're playing with confidence, it's a major factor. So if we can keep up that confidence and we keep doing the little things right, making plays, then I think we'll be alright."

One of either Medvescak Zagreb failing to beat Ritten Sport in regulation time in today's early game (3pm) or the Giants avoiding losing to GKS Katowice in the evening game (7pm) will see them into January's Super Final.

The Polish side, flanked by their noisy Ultras, looked very impressive in their opening game against Ritten but ran into problems in front of net against Medvescak in their 3-2 loss yesterday.

"They're a fast team who have skilled players that can make some plays," is Murphy's assessment.

"We'll watch some video tomorrow to get a little bit more of an idea, we're not going to take them lightly because they're a good team.

"Their backs are against the wall so they're going to come out hard and we have to be ready for that."

Katowice head coach Tom Coolen was bullish on his side's chances, pointing out their encouraging fightback against Zagreb after falling two behind.

"At two points down we could have mailed it in but we didn’t, and we ended up having enough chances to win that game," said the Canadian. "All in all, I wasn't discouraged with my team.

"I haven’t really watched (the Giants), we’d been focusing on Zagreb, but we’ll look at their tape tomorrow. We know they’re a good team, but tomorrow is a new day and we’ll give it our best shot."

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