Belfast Telegraph

Local lad Roberts can grab his chance with Belfast Giants

Gareth Roberts has been handed the opportunity to make his Belfast Giants debut tonight.

And coach Doug Christiansen last night insisted that turning to the untried Belfast-born forward isn’t a sign of desperation.

Indeed Christiansen believes that there are short-term and long-term benefits to be had by handing Roberts his opportunity when the Giants face the Dundee Stars at the Odyssey tonight.

A week ago Christiansen was able to ice with a full compliment of players, but since then Brad Smyth has left to pursue a more lucrative contract in Italy, Ross Dalgleish has been ruled out of tonight’s game and Mike Hoffman has had to make a second dash across the Atlantic in the space of a few weeks due to a family illness.

As for the four injured players, there will be no return this side of Christmas for either Brandon Benedict or Mark Garside, while no date can be put on a return for Colin Hemingway and Rich Seeley’s season could be over.

“There is method to what we are doing,” said Christiansen.

“The only way we are going to get the next Graeme Walton or the next Mark Morrison is to bring them through our system.

“We are trying to grow our programme and this is the way to do it. If we can bring one or two in and get them some minutes on the ice, then in our current circumstances it can help us in the short-term as well as in the future.”

Twenty-four-year-old Roberts has played World Championship ice hockey for Ireland, but it will still be a case of being thrown in at the deep end should his skates hit the ice at any stage during the 60 minutes tonight.

Christiansen, however, has seen enough in Roberts to believe that he can make an impact.

“Gareth has been training with us for a couple of months and during that time he has lost weight, which has allowed him to skate with us at a level which has got him to where he is right now,” said Christiansen.

“He is probably the brightest prospect that we have, but he is not the guy we’re bringing in to fix things.

“He’s coming in and being given an opportunity with us and we hope that he reacts in a positive way.”

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