Opponent preview: 2017/18 Belfast Giants
The Genting Casino Coventry Blaze will look to build on their 5-1 victory over the Sheffield Steelers in league play on Sunday as they take on the Belfast Giants at the Skydome Arena.
It'll be the first meeting of the two this season, so Blaze TV's Ed Kimberley takes a look at our Irish opponents.
It was only a matter of time before Adam Keefe became the Head Coach of the Belfast Giants. After two years at the helm, Derick Walser departed this summer, replaced by the long-standing club Captain.
Despite having no coaching experience, the 33-year-old was a popular choice amongst the Giants faithful having been with the club since 2011/12 and holding the ‘C’ since 2012/13. With Walser retiring to take a coaching job in the OHL with Peterborough, Keefe has done a strong job in recruiting new players, signing some names with impressive CV’s.
Results have been up and down thus far though, evidenced by an impressive four point weekend against the Steelers followed by three losses on the bounce to Nottingham, Edinburgh (in the cup) and then most recently Manchester.
Built from the Back
Belfast have, on paper anyway, a strong balanced Defence which is led by the returning former NHL’er Jim Vandermeer (currently injured), Ryan Martinelli and new signing Cole Jarrett.
Jarrett, who comes to the Giants from Tohoku in the highly rated Asian League will wear an ‘A’ this season and has a lot of European Elite League experience. He has seen time in Liiga, DEL, EBEL as well as a brief stint in the NHL with the Islanders. He is a defenceman who can play at both of the ends of the ice with intensity, possesses a high skill level and will go some-way to replace the departing Walser.
They have 2 relatively young but highly experienced D-men joining from the ECHL who will both add offence and physicality to the line-up. 27-year-old Spiro Goulakos joins from Greenville but had a stint in the AHL last year with Hartford. At 6’2 200lbs Goulakos, like Jarrett does it all, he can score, going 15+19 in 46 ECHL games last year and he clearly doesn’t mind mixing things up posting 115pims at the same time. He is currently 2nd in scoring among defenceman with 1 goal, 7 assists in 6 EIHL games and 1+3 in the Challenge Cup.
Kevin Raine at only 24 will be the Giants youngest D-man but has a strong pedigree, winning an OHL title with London in 2011/12 and a Calder Cup with Manchester in 2014/15. At a young age he already has an impressive 138 AHL games under his belt and will likely use the EIHL as a springboard to showcase his talent to European Elite Leagues.
All Riled Up
The Giants have a stacked roster of forwards who will be led by new Captain and leading points scorer from last season, Blair Riley. The 31-year-old of over 350 AHL games, registered an impressive 56 points in 52 games during his debut EIHL season and will be looking to at least repeat that same form this campaign.
Brendan Connolly too is one of the new signings for this season who will be a real handful for opposition defences. At only 5’8, 180lbs you would be forgiven to think he would be your ‘run-of-the-mill’ undersized skilled forward. The Albertan certainly does have the skill, scoring 48 points in the Danish Metal Ligaen last season and who in the ECHL, is a point a game with 331 points in 330 regular season games. He is however a fiery character. In the 330 ECHL appearances he has 644 PIMS and was the most penalised player in Denmark last season (186PIMS) en-route to lifting the Danish Cup. The silverware in Demark will be added to his Kelly Cup which he hoisted as captain with Alaska in 2013/14.
High-end experience (which they'll have to do without)
Belfast have a habit of signing Elite level experienced forwards. Two of the picks though will both be absent this weekend, through injury and suspension respectively, but allow us to introduce you anyway:
When signing 34-year-old Dustin Johner the Giants really turned some heads. The Giants #83 has scored in every league he has graced in spades. An Allsvenskan stand out, he has helped 2x teams gain promotion to the SHL (Vaxjo and Djurgarden) and as a late addition to ZSC in his first European season helped the Swiss side win the NLA title. What really stands out is that he is just shy of a point per game in the Swedish 2nd tier, 0.8ppg average in a league notorious for its low individual point totals.
Jonathan Ferland, also 34 brings bags of know-how to the Giants roster too. The assistant Captain from Quebec, has spent most of his career in Austria split between Villacher and Vienna, the latter of which he captained for the last 3 seasons. He won the EBEL title last season to add to a Calder Cup won back in 2006/07 where he was an assistant captain in Montreal’s farm-system. He would also go on to represent the Canadians playing 7 games scoring once.
Keefe, perhaps more so than those before has though looked to add some youthful exuberance to the Irish sides forward line-up. 23-year-old Sébastien Sylvestre has started particularly well with 8 goals, 6 assists in 10 games over all competitions. The Giants #10 though has also racked up 42 minutes in the penalty box, getting himself into hot water on multiple occasions by saying a bit too much to the officials picking up a number of misconduct penalties.
Tickets vs. Belfast - Sunday (5.15pm Skydome Arena)
No queing, guaranteed seat - show ticket on your mobile device – no need to print!
or call/visit the Skydome Arena box office in person - 02476 630693.
The box office is open from 9am every day and you can also pay on the door when you arrive, however it is recommended that you book online to save queing.
Giants fans, please book tickets in block 6.