Cardiff Devils 4 Belfast Giants 1: Doug Christiansen and his Belfast Giants flew back into George Best Belfast City Airport this morning empty handed – and the coach is determined that his team's barren season won't be repeated next time around.
A 4-1 play-off semi-final defeat to the Cardiff Devils on Saturday evening brought a premature end to the Giants’ season and also killed their last chance of winning a trophy.
Three weeks ago the current team was on the cusp of success unprecedented in the 11-season history of the club.
Never before has a Giants team won the league or the play-off title and coupled it with another trophy. This time last month they were chasing both — and the Challenge Cup to boot.
Today, however, Christiansen and his players are reflecting on a season that has finished without anything tangible to show for their efforts.
An Elite League points record might be a nice statistic, but it didn't give one single fan cause to celebrate and Christiansen knows that the expectation level in Belfast is as high as anywhere in the league.
Other teams had players who racked up goal after goal. Christiansen was pleased that his team did so well without having anyone in the top bracket of scorers, but ultimately not having a prolific marksman was costly.
“We signed lots of guys who were expected to be big scorers. Guys who were proven scorers throughout their professional careers,” said Christiansen.
“Over the last three or four weeks we haven't had enough offence in the big games.”
It was defenceman Michael Jacobsen who scored the Giants’ goal against Cardiff on a powerplay, but at that stage the Devils
were already 3-0 up, with Tylor Michel and Max Birbraer (short-handed) and Ryan Finnerty, on a powerplay, netting. Stuart MacRae scored five minutes from the end to seal the victory.
The Nottingham Panthers beat Cardiff 5-4 in last night's final, with two goals in the third overturning the Devils’ lead.
“When you give up short-handed goals it's obvious that mistakes have been made and from 3-0 down it was going to be tough for us,” said Christiansen.
“For the last seven or eight minutes of the second period we dominated probably as much as we've dominated all season — but we only got one goal.
“Cardiff were able to get in at the break and regroup and employ a defensive system in the third period. I think we might have found ourselves with a different scenario if we'd scored even one more goal in the last half of the second period.
“I still have a feeling of disbelief. I never dreamt we'd get eliminated in the semi-final, but we just didn't score enough goals.”