Ara Nazarian’s pride in Belfast Giants’ CHL achievements
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The Giants narrowly missed out on the playoff stages of the tournament, plus they finished above last year’s CHL winners Finnish side Tappara Tampere.
He said: “We proved this year that the Giants weren’t just content to be in the CHL. We wanted to win games.”
Giants showed throughout the campaign that they weren't there just to make up the numbers.
Nazarian said: “We went three and three in the CHL this season, which is pretty good. There were a couple of games were the outcome was decided by just one goal, I am thinking especially of the game in Austria and the game against Lukko in Finland. Those games could have gone either way for us.
“We were right there in those game and we showed that we were able to compete against the best in Europe, we can rank ourselves in the mix of the best.
“In the end we also missed the cut by one or two points which, obviously is disappointing, but it showed that we belonged in the CHL.”
He says that finishing up ahead of Tappara Tampere is pleasing.
He remarked: “Finishing above Tampere is very pleasing indeed. After playing them in Finland and going down to that loss, to finish above them is a little surprising to be honest.
“I think that shows the talent level throughout the teams in the CHL, anyone can win on any given night.”
“As a group, we feel pretty good about what we have achieved,” he added.
It was Nazarian first time playing in the CHL he says that he has enjoyed the experience and opportunity to play the best in Europe.
“Getting to travel around Europe was enjoyable as was the hockey itself. Had a couple of bounces gone our way we could well have made the playoffs.
“Getting to play in Belfast in those three home games was also awesome and I hope the fans enjoyed as much I have.
“We are a tough team to play against on our home ice and we certainly showed that with the three CHL wins.”
Looking back at the final CHL game against Dynamo Pardubice at the SSE Arena, Nazarian said: “It was a great game of hockey. We had another awesome crowd at the SSE which really helped to lift us for our last Champions League game.
“We fought hard in the game and battle to the very end. We were down two going into the third period and our backs were up against the wall, but we found a way to get back into the game.
“The two powerplay goals were massive for us and help to put us into the lead.
“The comeback shows the real character and will of the team this year.”
A tough game against one of the best Czechia side was only to be expected.
He said: “Going two goals down wasn’t the gameplan for the game against Dynamo Pardubice. We kept on playing our game and refused to give up against them.
“Longer had a great goal to get us back on level terms and that was a great motivator for us to chase down the game.
“With the CHL rule of powerplays we were able to take advantage of Dynamo being down to the man, it allowed us to stamp our authority on the game.
“It really showed that you are never out of a game if you keep on fighting.”
The win shows the great tenacity and grit of the Giants this season says Nazarian.
He said: “The game really showed our tenacity as a group. Sometimes you have to knuckle down and find ways to win those games.
“The tenacity of the group stems from the top down, it comes from the owners, the coaches, and the leadership team.
“It trickles down through the ranks in the squad, it can be quite infectious. It has been a fun group to be a part of and play with.”
Nazarian says the CHL games will help equip the Giants for the rest of the season.
“Getting to Belfast early and getting into training camp will give us that extra edge for the rest of the season I think,” he explained.
“We have been together longer than the other teams in the EIHL and that should help us, it certainly helped us find winning consistency at the start of the season. We are hoping to build on that good start.”
He also believes that the confidence of the group is growing each game.
He remarked: “You can see that the team is growing in confidence in every game that we play. It was very apparent against Dynamo when we came back in the final period to win the game.
“Even though we were down to the top team in the Czech league that didn't faze us, and we were able to find a way to win the game. If we play our game, we know that we will win games.”