Riley looking forward to ‘nice break’ from EIHL action

(PHOTO: Panthers Images)

Belfast Giants captain Blair Riley says he’s looking forward to a ‘nice break’ from the Elite League title challenge as he prepares to try and help deliver a European prize.

The Giants are in Continental Cup action as the rest of the league battles it out among themselves for league points.

And he’s not letting himself get carried away in imagining the moment if he does end up as the winning captain from the four-team tournament.

“It’s going to be a nice break from the league schedule and gives us the chance to represent the EIHL and the Belfast fans are looking forward to it too,” he said.

“We’re hosting it of course but I know they’re excited about seeing the other teams and seeing some international competition for a change.

“It’s a good distraction for us and the league can be such a grind, with some midweek games, long road trips and three-in-threes so it’s a good break for us to focus on something else for a little bit.

“It means the other teams can duke it out among themselves and we’ll come back and see where we are.  We hope Cardiff slip up in our absence, but if not, we have them to play when we come back.

“I don’t want to get ahead of myself in letting me dream about the moment of lifting the trophy, if it were to happen.

Riley lifts the Challenge Cup last season, which set Belfast on their way to the Challenge Cup this year (PHOTO: Helen Brabon)

“There’s a long way to go, but at the end of the weekend, someone has to lift it up and you hope that it’s you. We want to make the most of the opportunity and see where we end up at the end of the weekend.”

Gomel, Katowice and Arlan Kokshetau are the three teams that stand in their way with the winner taking the Continental Cup prize and a spot in next season’s Champions Hockey League.

Riley admits to knowing not much about Gomel and Kokshetau, having never played them, but will face Poles Katowice after playing them in November’s previous round, losing 4-2.

But the skipper admits that’s part of the fun and talked of what it mean to win the competition, especially on home ice.

He added: “Other than Katowice, who we played last time, we don’t know too much about Gomel or Kokshetau, which is kind of the beauty of this weekend.

“We go in blind and see where we stack up against these other teams, but I’m sure the coach will have gone out to find out as much as possible.

“But to lift the trophy would be something special and a real feather in our caps.  Winning the Challenge Cup gave us the chance to compete in this tournament this year.

“Nottingham got to win it a couple of years and it puts the league in a good light by putting your best foot forward in international competition.

“To be able to do that in front of the home fans, where they don’t get to see us winning trophies at home so much would be really special.”

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