Since Christmas it hasn’t been if the Belfast Giants are going to win the Elite League title, just a matter of trying to work out when and where.
Paul Adey’s side need six points, or three wins, as long as the teams below them don’t lose.
The perfect scenario would be to win at least one of the two games at the Nottingham Panthers this weekend, which would give the Giants a chance to clinch next weekend in front of their own fans at the Odyssey Arena when they face a doubleheader against the Coventry Blaze.
However should they win both encounters with the Panthers and Braehead, Sheffield and Dundee lose once then the race could end on Sunday.
Another situation could arise which no one wants and that would see the Giants win the league next Wednesday night without having to play a game with both Sheffield and Braehead in action.
While it’s for supporters and pundits to speculate, the players appear focused on winning the games they have in front of them and then see what happens after that.
“I think winning the title has been on the back of our minds all season. We knew what a good team we had since we got together and we’ve proved that by getting on such a great roll.
“But it can’t be on the forefront of us thoughts, we just have to do what we’ve been doing over the past couple of months and that’s win the next game in front of us and put points on the board and then let the numbers sort themselves out,” explained captain Adam Keefe.
The Giants have lost only five of their 40 games so far in regulation, building up a twenty point gap at the top of the standings with twelve games remaining, but two of those losses have been in Nottingham including their worst defeat of the season, an 8-3 reversal on December 3rd.
In the nineteen league games since they’ve lost only once and that was an overtime reversal to Dundee.
After beating the Sheffield Steelers 5-3 in the first leg of their Challenge Cup semi-final on Tuesday night, the Panthers are likely final opponents so proving they can go into the National Ice Centre and win, regardless of the title race, will be important in the weeks and games ahead.
Keefe added, “Obviously they are a very good team and they are getting healthy at the right time of the season and we can’t take them lightly and its going to be a war to get points there this weekend.”
That cup defeat to the Panthers turned out to be the final game in charge at Sheffield for former Giants coach Doug Christiansen who was fired yesterday.Christiansen won a title in his three seasons in charge at the Odyssey but left the day after the season finished last April to take up the reins at the Steelers.