Belfast Giants look to bounce back after final heartache

The Belfast Giants were back on the ice on Thursday morning a little over 24 hours after the bitter disappointment of losing the Challenge Cup final to the Nottingham Panthers after penalty shots.

With it their Grand Slam dreams ended but there is still the chance to finish their impressive season on a high as the Play-offs begin this weekend.

Their opponents are the eighth seed, Hull Stingrays, who only made it into the quarter-finals on the last day of the regular season at the expense of the Cardiff Devils.

Twenty-seven points separated the sides in the Elite League but this is a two-game shootout with the away leg for the Giants in Hull on Saturday night and the final home game of the season at the Odyssey Arena on Sunday afternoon (face-off 4pm).

At stake is a place in the grand finale of the ice hockey season – the Final Four – in Nottingham next weekend with the semis on Saturday and final the following day.

The question hanging over the Giants is how will they respond to losing on Tuesday night?

Will they be even more determined to win the Play-offs or will the season end this weekend?

“This is the biggest test we’ve faced this season, no doubt about it,” admitted coach Paul Adey who was this week voted coach of the year.

“Losing a shoot-out in a final is tough to take and mentally this will be a big test but I have every confidence in this group of players.

“Whenever we’ve been tested this season we have bounced back really strongly and the way we won the league this year is a testament to that.

“We had a bad defeat in Nottingham early in the season and then went without a defeat in regulation for 30 games so the mental strength is there.”

Adey was keen to point out that the Giants only gave up 20 shots in the cup final defeat and that three powerplay goals were essentially the difference in the game but his big game players will have to be better over the next two weekends if they’re to finish the season on a high and that starts with a tough challenge against Hull.

Adey added, “I’m sure they may think we’re vulnerable and at home they’ve turned over Sheffield a couple of times this season.”