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We couldn't let loyal Belfast Giants fans down, says Riley

By Stuart McKinley

A few weeks ago, Blair Riley promised the Belfast Giants fans that the players would go all out to give them magic moments this season.

The man who lifted the trophy that marked the end of the club's four-year drought felt that the biggest pressure came from the stands and that's why the team just couldn't let Challenge Cup glory slip away from them.

Around 500 Giants fans travelled to Wales to see their team beat the Cardiff Devils 6-3 in Sunday's final, some leaving Belfast in the early hours and others taking various routes to get to south Wales - one even coming all the way from South America.

"There are such high expectations for this team. There's been a bit of a trophy drought the last few years - and you could tell," said Giants captain Riley.

"Fans have been tweeting us, they've been sending us well wishes. We couldn't let this one get away for them.

"They travelled across the pond, they follow us all over the place and they deserve it. I am very happy for Belfast, for Northern Ireland and for the fans who have supported the Giants."

Trailing 2-1 as the midway point approached, it was then that the Giants' quality kicked in.

The third period looked like a stroll, with the Giants scoring three goals to Cardiff's one, but on the ice Riley revealed that it was almost like time was standing still instead of the silverware moving closer.

"I thought when Brandon Benedict got the goal to tie it up at 1-1 it gave us a bit of a breath," said Riley. "They cut it back, credit to them they scored straight away to make it 2-1. It was a bit of a blur after that.

"The clock felt like it was completely stopped that whole third period. It just goes so slow in that situation. It never felt comfortable and even with 30 seconds left we were still chipping pucks in and trying to play."

It was a Jonathan Ferland goal - the first of his two on the night - that gave the Giants the lead for the first time five minutes before the end of the second period. The strike had a large slice of luck surrounding it, with the 35-year-old Quebec native scoring from what seemed an impossible angle.

The former NHL-er admitted that he had meant to shoot - but wasn't expecting to score.

"I saw John Kurtz in front of the net and was shooting because the goalie was down. I was shooting for a rebound, but it went in," he said.

"Every championship you win is special. We came in as the underdog and that's what makes it special. We played like a championship team.

"Everyone pulled in the same way and that's what brought us success."

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