Belfast Giants coach Adam Keefe says Thursday’s Continental Cup game is key if they are to succeed in qualifying.
He’s putting the finishing touches to his team’s preparation as they get ready to host the third group stage, with a place in January’s final group at stake.
And Keefe is keen to get points on the board early when they meet Medvescak Zagreb on Thursday and admits his team is in great shape.
“The first game is huge in this tournament format and you want to get the wins as soon as possible and what better way than against a team of Zagreb’s calibre, with the quality of players they have,” he said.
“We want to focus on our own play and if we do that and allow the players to do what they do best and why they were brought here, allowing them to be the best versions of themselves, it gives us a great opportunity.
“Whatever you’ve done in the league up until now doesn’t matter. It’s about familiarising yourself as much as possible with our opponents.
“That being said, we’re certainly in good spirits and we don’t want to get too high. We understand Cardiff are in a slump at the moment, so Sunday’s game was all about making sure that wasn’t the game where they came back on track.”
Once the Croatian test of Zagreb is over, attentions will turn to Italian side Ritten Sport before finishing off against Katowice of Poland on Saturday.
Keefe is certainly looking ahead to the challenge and says his player are too and revealed the unknown quantity element of their opponents adds to the anticipation.
He added: “I’m very excited and the guys have been looking forward to this. We earned this berth from our success last year so we’re in a good place and looking forward to the challenge.
“You can put your league brain to rest here and contemplate new teams and other leagues. It’s always special in a tournament format where you’ll face these guys perhaps just the once.
“You don’t really know what you’re up against other than what information you’ve gathered so the fact it’s outside of league play makes it exciting.
“We’re focussing on one team at a time and it’s going to be really difficult this weekend and all are good teams in their respective leagues. Katowice in particular are on a good season, having lost only twice or something.
“But the important thing for us is to concentrate on being the best Belfast Giants team we can be and see where we end up.
“It’s a great challenge for us and I expect us to be fully fit, ready to go and full of energy.”