Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Giants on edge as title race hots up

By Stuart McKinley

The battle for the Elite League title race is set to reach fever pitch over the next week — and Doug Christiansen can’t wait.

The Belfast Giants coach has no fear of facing rising pressure as a thrilling climax to the championship tussle looms.

The fixtures schedule throws up two battles between the two leading contenders, with the Giants and Sheffield Steelers clashing at the Odyssey Arena on Saturday night and then again in Yorkshire next Wednesday.

There is also the first leg of the Challenge Cup final against the Nottingham Panthers sandwhiched in between, but Christiansen’s sole focus is on tonight’s league clash with the Hull Stingrays at the Odyssey.

And after Hull’s win over the Steelers last Saturday put the destination of the title in the Giants’ hands, Christiansen knows a tough prospect awaits his team.

“The success that we’ve had in 2010 has put us in a great position,” said Christiansen.

“We are where we want to be, which is in control of our own destiny.

“Hull’s win on Saturday night gave everyone a lift.

“We have gone from a mindset of knowing that we could win all our games and still not win the league to knowing that we can win it.

“Everyone will want to talk about Saturday night. The fans will all be talking about it, but it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the job that we have to do against Hull.

“Yes, there are two games coming up against Sheffield which are set up to be huge, but we have to focus on beating Hull.

“We have to beat Hull to make those games against Sheffield really matter.

“We’ve had enough games this season where we’ve ended up kicking ourselves having lost and we don’t want to add to that.

“I always think positive and I know that we will be back on top if we win our next four games — no matter what Sheffield do.

“We have to think about it one game at a time though.”

Christiansen’s mantra for the last few months has been that the only way the pressure comes off is to lose — and that’s not a scenario he has any interest in.

The bigger pressure, however, seems to be on Sheffield. Not only do the Steelers have those home and away games against the Giants, they also face the Nottingham Panthers on Sunday and given the bitter rivalry that exists between those two, the Steelers will have to work for whatever they get out of that game.

The Giants will also be expected to beat the Edinburgh Capitals at the Odyssey on Friday week and if the winning run in the league which currently stands at 10 games becomes 13 then it will be Christiansen’s side in the driving seat.

“We want to make every game this season meaningful and we’re on our way to doing that,” said Christiansen.

“We want to do that for the fans and hopefully give them something to celebrate. We’re still in there looking to win three championships and there is a lot to look forward to in March.”

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Tonight’s game will start earlier than the normal midweek face-off time, at 7pm rather than 7.30pm.

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