Cooper is confident of competitive EIHL season

Belfast Giants returning forward Mark Cooper says that he is confident that the squad will continue to improve over the coming weeks as the new season kicks in.

He said: “The results last weekend [against Fife Flyers] were certainly good and what we were looking for. I think the team could have played a little better for the full 65 minutes on Friday.

“The games were definitely a change from the Champions League, we had a bit more position with the puck.

“The adjustment to the domestic league will take a few weeks, hopefully we can grow and develop, and that’s something that we will be wanting to do over the next weeks.

Belfast Giants' Mark Cooper with Fife Flyers' Brayden Sherbinin during last Saturday's Challenge Cup game at the SSE Arena, Belfast. Picture by William Cherry/Presseye

“We need to continue to win while we are learning.

“We will also need to learn to travel, especially as we get to see what the league has to offer this season.”

Reflecting on the competitiveness elsewhere in the EIHL Cooper said: “They [the Flyers] were a hundred percent more competitive this season. Last season I think we beat them every game and they got better throughout the season.

“I would say that they have definitely improved from their best last year. They play hard and were committed to their system.

Belfast Giants' Mark Cooper #26 with Ocelari Trinec's Milos Roman #40 during the Champions Hockey League game at the SSE Arena, Belfast

“And while they were short bodies for sure, they had some defencemen who were logging plenty of minutes, I think there were Fife players who had 35 minutes on the ice.

“They are going to be a team not to be taken lightly this season, especially when they get those injured players back.”

That competitiveness can only be a good thing Cooper believes.

“I think the improvement that we are seeing in the other teams in the league has to be a good thing for the league as a whole. I know that this league doesn’t get the respect that it deserves across Europe. But coming from North America I believe that this league is very underrated.

“It is great for the league that there is more competitiveness throughout. It will only make the competition better on a nightly basis and I guess, as they say, the cream will rise to the top.”