The Belfast Giants put their current eight game winning streak on the line tonight against the defending Elite League champions, Nottingham Panthers, at the Odyssey Arena as the New Year faces-off with a bang.
Giants coach Paul Adey knows his players will face a desperate Panthers side looking to claw their way back into the title race.
It’s currently a one-horse race with the Giants opening up an 11 point lead at the top of the standings on Monday night with a 6-1 demolition of the Hull Stingrays.
The Panthers trail by 14 points but do have three games in hand and these head-to-head encounters in which they’ve won two of the three so far this season, are must win games.
In contrast the Giants have been going on their way, winning games and playing some entertaining hockey into the bargain and another two points tonight might just finish the Panthers chances of repeating as champions.
“So far, so good this season, we’ve played well but we have a lot of tough battles to come and we have just got to remain focused on the next game and we know how tough that will be against Nottingham,” explained Adey.
“They’re the champions and that will be a good challenge for us.
“They have their games in hand so they could make up some points on us but even if they do we have a bit of a cushion on them but for them, if they can’t get a win over us in this game, it will make it extremely difficult for them to make up that distance in the standings.
“So it’s an important games for both teams. We’ll be fully focused on practice in the build-up and then we’ll see what happens when the game starts.”
So far this season only the Coventry Blaze have left the Odyssey Arena will a victory in regulation (Cardiff won a penalty shoot-out).
If the Giants can continue to win at home they’ll be difficult to catch.
Adey added, “What you want to try and do is have an even or better record against the teams in our conference – Nottingham, Sheffield, Cardiff and Coventry – and we have that against them all except Nottingham who we have only played three times. In terms of our home games we have a winning record and we want that to continue, we want to continue to make it hard for those teams below us to make up any ground.”