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Giants keen to focus on end game

The Belfast Giants’ back-to-back games against Coventry Blaze at the SSE Arena had everything for their fans to be cheering for.

Belfast Giants' Mark Cooper and Ben Lake with Coventry Blaze's CJ Motte during an Elite Ice Hockey League game at the SSE Arena, Belfast.   Photo by Darren Kidd/Presseye
Belfast Giants' Mark Cooper and Ben Lake with Coventry Blaze's CJ Motte during an Elite Ice Hockey League game at the SSE Arena, Belfast. Photo by Darren Kidd/Presseye

Not only did the Giants take all the points on offer, but there were nine goals including a hat-trick from forward Mark Cooper, two all short-handed goals, one empty net goal and one shut-out for goalie Tyler Beskorowany.

“There were some great plays by my linemates to help me to my hat-trick,” said Mark Coopers after the game, clearly delighted with his and the Giants’ overall performance against Coventry.

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“The first goal Ben and Slater Doggett hounded the puck and got it back. We are on a two on one and Slater made a superb pass across and found me.

Belfast Giants' Jordan Boucher with Coventry Blaze's CJ Motte during the Elite Ice Hockey League game at the SSE Arena, Belfast. Photo by Darren Kidd/Presseye

“The second, Lake again picked off a pass and found me streaking for a little break.

“And then the third one was a great play by Boucher which was right in the slot and it hit the far side of the net and went in.”

Cooper added: “I don’t think that I have had a lack of chances in front of goal to get a hat-trick before now.

“I just haven’t been able to bury as much I guess as I would like. So it’s nice to get back in the goal column and hopefully I can keep that going.”

Belfast Giants' JJ Piccinich celebrates scoring against the Coventry Blaze in the Elite Ice Hockey League game at the SSE Arena, Belfast. Photo by Darren Kidd/Presseye

He believes that the Giants are starting to built up a new momentum afresh.

Getting back to winning ways is so important as they head into the second half of the season, and as the competition between the top three teams in the league hots up even more.

Cooper said: “It is so important that we got back to winning. We had had a long week of practice and we fed off that energy.

“With Sheffield and Cardiff winning their games we can’t afford to give up points.

“The two loses definitely hurt but if we can bounce back and hopefully go on another streak, especially at home with our amazing fans, it is going to be fun going into the second half of the season with that energy.”

He continued: “We don’t want to look to far ahead of ourselves. We have two huge games against Cardiff coming up at the SSE.

“And then we have Sheffield five times throughout the rest of the year. If we can stay tight with them we can control our own destiny with those game against them.

“There is a great chemistry in the team and we have dealt with a lot this season what with injuries. So players have played up all over the ice and that helps to build the chemistry, which is both on and off the ice too which helps.”

Head coach Adam Keefe said: “We played a full 60 minutes, it would have been easy to shut off in the third period but our guys didn’t do that and took their opportunities. That’s exactly what we asked for.

“Our guys are pretty bought in and understand what is at stake. They know what we need to do every night.”

Keefe acknowledged that his side got under the skins of the Blaze players.

He said: “When you aren’t getting opportunities with the puck, to get quality looks at the net it can be very frustrating to play against us. You could see the frustration building on them.

“That’s a credit to our guys, it is hard work to play like that and especially for the full 60 minutes.”