There’s a bit of a buzz around Belfast at the moment, you can feel in the waters of the Lagan which flows nearby. Adam Keefe has assembled a roster which is challenging for four trophies, the elusive quadruple which no Elite League has ever achieved. It’s a tough ask for it to happen but there is some quiet confidence emanating from the Northern Irish capital that the Giants class of 2019 could actually make it happen.
Domestically, the Giants currently stand at the summit of the Elite League as they chase their first title since 2014 when they romped to success by an astonishing 23 points; losing just six games in regulation in a 52 game season. They are four points clear of current defending champions Cardiff having played three games more than Andrew Lord’s team but the Giants will play the majority of the second half of their season on home ice which could prove a major asset in their bid to stop the Devils making it a threepeat which has never been achieved.
The roster assembled, bar a few blips here and there, has been solid throughout and in their recent mammoth road trip: recorded 13 wins out of 16. They allowed last season’s main starting goalie to leave for a rival but replaced him with a “stud” of a goalie who has given them chances to win every night. The defence is dependable and once more Keefe has found gems in his forwards; bringing AHL standard firepower in the shape of Kyle Baun and Francis Beauvillier whilst Darcy Murphy has continued to impress in his second season in teal, the loss of Sèbastian Sylvestre has hardly been missed.
Last season, Giants upset the Grand Slam chasing Devils with a win in the Challenge Cup Final and they are already looking good to retain this. They topped their qualifying group and made short work of Omar Pacha’s Dundee Stars in the quarter final stage, a 8-0 win in Dundee in the first leg put it beyond any doubt. They now face Glasgow Clan in a semi-final which; despite the Clan winning a recent EIHL game between the two sides; most would fancy the Giants. I honestly can see them retaining this crown.
The Play-Offs will be interesting as few teams who have taken the EIHL crown have won the Play-Off crown in the same season. But the Giants will have a good chance as much as anyone if they make the final four. Then there’s the Continental Cup; Giants have a tough ask in this as they face GKS Katowice (again), Arlan Kokshetau (a former club of Sheffield’s Ben O’Connor and most people’s favourites to win it) from Kazakhstan and HK Gomel of Belarus. The Giants are probably the most unfancied of the four but they should not be underestimated at all. The fact the Super Final is being played on the Giants home ice might give them extra confidence.
I also spoke to Giants fan Martin McGowan about this quadruple quest, and this is what Martin had to say:
“Season is going great from my point of view but injuries, discipline and fatigue has cost us in a few games. That long hard road was hard for the boys but they got through it better than most expected.
The quadruple quest is still in our grasp but we can’t take anything for granted. Clan are our opponents in the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup, and if Saturday is proven then we have to be on our game in every game.
We missed out on play-offs last season, but it would be great to see them back.”
Can the Giants make history? Bet against them at your peril because when they’re good, they’re really good. The Quadruple Quest is not beyond them but if I am to be truthful then I can see them taking two out of them in the shape of the Challenge Cup and Elite League titles. It’s certainly a season that is getting a few people talking, whether they wear teal or not.