Elite League preview: Giants’ improvement pleases Walser

Belfast Giants’ Player/Coach Derrick Walser believes his team is gradually improving, despite seeing them blow a two-goal lead against Cardiff Devils last weekend.

Patrick Asselin’s overtime strike condemned the Giants to a 3-2 league defeat, but Walser was happy with the overall performance.

“I thought the game was pretty good – they were just a little bit more consistent than us and they did a much better job in their offensive zone,” said Walser (above).

“It was a good test. We know we’re very close, but we’re not there yet.”

Giants follow up Saturday’s Elite Challenge Cup game at home to Braehead Clan with a trip to Sheffield Steelers in the league the following day and Walser is keen to see how his team match up to the reigning champions.

“Braehead are fighting to stay alive (in the cup) and then we’ve got another good test at Sheffield,” added Walser.

“We want go there and perform against a team that’s probably going to fight for the league again. It’ll be good to see how we measure up to them.”

Sheffield travel to Braehead on Friday ahead of Sunday’s clash with Belfast aiming to tighten up defensively.

Despite picking up two victories last weekend the Steelers conceded seven goals and Ben O’Connor has admitted things need to improve.

“It’s not good when you are letting in four or give goals every night – no-one wants that,” O’Connor told the Sheffield Star.

“But defence is a team thing – it’s not just six ‘D’ men out there, it’s the whole team. We’ve got to come back hard.”

Fife Flyers host Manchester Storm on Saturday hoping to put last weekend’s collapse at Edinburgh Capitals firmly behind them.

Flyers led 4-1 going into the final period of Sunday’s cup game, but Capitals smashed five goals without reply to seal a remarkable victory.

Storm head into the weekend on the back of defeats against Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield, but Flyers’ Assistant Coach Jeff Hutchins expects them to be difficult opponents.

“Last season Manchester were fairly offensive which was good on certain occasions and not so good on other nights,” said Hutchins.

“However, I think they’ve improved the defensive aspects of their game this year and will be a tough team to play against.

“We can expect them to come in and play hard and be physical while being dangerous in the offensive zone.

“Omar (Pacha) has put together a good roster on paper. Every team in this league is good – there are no easy nights and the teams that bring it every shift, every night, will have the success.”

Flyers travel to Coventry Blaze on Sunday, with the home side likely to be seeking revenge for last weekend’s 4-1 reverse in Kirkcaldy.

“We just need to go down there prepared and be wiling to work hard and sacrifice for the betterment of the team and we will have success,” added Hutchins. “If we can do that we will come away with points.”

WEEKEND FIXTURES

Friday

Braehead Clan v Sheffield Steelers

Saturday

Belfast Giants v Braehead Clan (Cup)
Cardiff Devils v Coventry Blaze
Fife Flyers v Manchester Storm
Nottingham Panthers v Dundee Stars

Sunday

Coventry Blaze v Fife Flyers
Dundee Stars v Cardiff Devils
Edinburgh Capitals v Braehead Clan
Manchester Storm v Nottingham Panthers (Cup)
Sheffield Steelers v Belfast Giants

(Image permission: Press Eye)

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