Belfast Giants captain David Goodwin knows the craic this weekend, to coin a local term, when it comes to their Premier Sports Elite League title hopes, so much so he’s squeezing in a voluntary gym session before the team travels to Sheffield.
“I want to make sure I’m at my absolute best come Saturday. I don’t want there to be any regrets. I want to be as prepared as possible and lay it all on the line on Saturday both from an individual standpoint and as the leader of this team,” he insists.
Today (7pm) and tomorrow (4pm) the league-leading Giants are at the Utilita Arena knowing that two wins — one of which has to be in regulation — over the second-placed Sheffield Steelers, who are one point behind them, will hand them the title. Anything else... well, let’s not think about that.
After 50 games, it is somewhat ironic that the only professional ice hockey league in the world not to determine its champions by best-of-series play-offs will effectively have its champions determined by a best-of-three series, with the Giants and Steelers meeting twice this weekend and then again at the SSE Arena next Friday.
Both have one other game — Sheffield at Glasgow on Tuesday and the Giants host Coventry next Saturday — but the overwhelming likelihood is whichever team wins two of the three meetings will be champions. And yet the Giants are resisting the urge to treat this as a play-off series.
“We’re not even worrying ourselves by trying to work out what we need in the standings, otherwise we could get distracted about looking ahead and not focusing on the job right in front of us,” adds Goodwin.
“Keefer (head coach Adam Keefe) has done a great job of that this season, making sure we’re only looking at the next game and making sure we have our minds solely on that.
“We are confident that if we win this game on Saturday, it’ll be very tough to stop us getting the job done on Sunday. It’s not a play-off mentality, it’s a ‘we have a big game on Saturday so let’s get it done there’ mentality.”
And this from a team which has not lost back-to-back games since January. Keep that streak going and they will at least take the title race back to home ice next weekend.