Belfast Telegraph

Devils should be very afraid as Belfast Giants hammer Panthers

By Stuart McKinley

Belfast Giants 7 Nottingham Panthers 2: Doug Christiansen has fired out a warning to the Cardiff Devils after his Belfast Giants team displayed their Elite League title credentials in no uncertain terms.

If any of the other teams who have designs on the championship still doubted that the Giants have what it takes to win the big games, they were surely wiped out on Saturday night.

Christiansen’s men didn’t just beat the Nottingham Panthers, they destroyed them and the 7-2 win wasn’t flattering in the least.

Panthers coach Corey Neilson will be glad that after three meetings in a week his team only has to play the Giants once more.

Before the three consecutive clashes with the Panthers, Christiansen spelt out his belief that if either team claimed a whitewash it would send out a huge message to their title rivals.

The Giants came oh so close to doing that — winning twice and only going down in a penalty shoot-out on Friday night.

Cardiff’s record 22-game winning run was ended by a shoot-out defeat in Dundee last night and although they still have a three point lead as well as two games in hand, Christiansen is turning up the heat on the Devils.

“Sheffield on Saturday is a huge game for us and if we go in there and win then all of a sudden Cardiff are looking over their shoulder,” said Christiansen.

“They will have looked at our schedule — three games against Nottingham and then an away game in Sheffield — and probably expected us to lose one or two.

“We have five points out of a possible six from the first three of those — if that becomes seven out of eight then we’re saying to Cardiff ‘we’re coming after you.’

“I am extremely confident in my team. We have been short-benched for a lot of the season, we’ve had adversity and we’re still right there fighting.

“The team we’ve had for most of the season isn’t the team that we signed. We’ve had players who have been out injured for months, but now Brandon Benedict is back, Colin Hemingway returned at the weekend and was outstanding and Mark Garside probably had his best night as a Giant on Saturday — without scoring.

“Those three guys are growing in confidence and they are playing a part in us starting to become the team that we can be.

“We had five bad days after Christmas, but that’s not the make-up of this team. The make-up is a team that lost four games in regulation time in four months and is still having success.”

Christiansen was left hugely frustrated by Friday night’s shoot-out loss to Nottingham, in a game that his team dominated, but somehow they failed to score from 15 shots in the second period.

Amazingly on Saturday the Giants had only five shots in the first period — which must be a record low in the history of a team that has always boasted immense firepower — yet scored three times and then went 5-0 ahead before Nottingham offered a response and even when they did the Giants matched them goal for goal to win 7-2.

Simon Lambert grabbed a hat-trick, Hemingway netted twice — the first being short-handed — and Dan Welch and Benedict scored a goal each.

“We got lucky at times, the puck went in off one of their guy’s skate for the first goal, but they had that too the night before,” said Christiansen.

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