Giants aim to take advantage of growing Elite League popularity

Giants aim to take advantage of growing Elite League popularity

12 Oct 2019 |

As Elite Ice Hockey in the United Kingdom 2019/20 season is still in its infancy, one thing is clear – the sport in the UK is in rude health.


Close to one million people (949,539 to be exact) attended games in the EIHL last season (an increase of nearly 50,000 on the previous season) and one side looking to capitalise on that popularity by going the extra step this season is the Belfast Giants.

It was all going so well for the Giants in 2018/19.

After 60 games, the Giants were crowned Elite League regular season champions after rivals Cardiff Devils lost a vital game against Coventry Blaze.

It was tight though as victory would have given the Devils the title as the pair ended level on points and it was only due to the Giants having recorded more regular-season wins that Adam Keefe’s side were handed the regular season championship title.

Narrow it may have been, but deserved it also was as the Giants boasted the season's top scorer in Darcy Murphy who managed 79-points and the regular season MVP Canadian goaltender Tyler Beskorowany.

That left the Giants in hot form heading into the end of season playoffs and much like their Stanley Cup counterparts the Tampa Bay Lightning who are favourites at 7/1 with Betway as of the 29th September to lift the trophy again – the Giants were the team to beat in the knockout event.

It looked even more likely Keefe’s Belfast side would make a clean sweep of regular-season and playoff triumph’s after sweeping first past the side that handed them the league title – Coventry Blaze – by a comfortable 12-2 score line over the two legs, then the Guildford Flames in a hard-fought semi-final.

A final place was booked and they would take on their rivals, the Cardiff Devils. The Welsh side nearly defeated the Sheffield Steelers, a team looking to go further after completing a strong roster, and then the Nottingham Panthers to set up the eagerly-anticipated final showdown.

The game was tight, but eventually, it was the Devils who won through by a 2-1 score line a result that was perhaps a little piece of redemption for the Cardiff outfit.

2019/20 and the grudge looks set to go the distance again

One of the great stories for this season's Elite Ice Hockey League is that both Belfast and Cardiff will expect to be right in the mix once again with rivalries resumed.

However, both Cardiff and Belfast may not have it all their own way.

It may be early days, but sides from North of the Border – i.e Scotland – have gotten a head of steam with the Glasgow Clan the very early pacesetters and fellow Scots the Fife Flyers in second.

Of course, with the games occurring thick and fast in the EIHL, by the time you read this, there will have been movement in the table, but not that much and proof that this season will be one of the most open yet.

In fact, to highlight this, the Fife Flyers exacted revenge on the Belfast Giants by winning 5-2 in a recent cup game.

Both Belfast and Cardiff have ground to make up on the early pacesetters, but they have also played far fewer games.

Due to Cup games and Champions League Hockey matches, the Giants had only completed two Elite League games at the time of writing recording one win and one overtime loss.

They have completed four Champions League games but unfortunately sit bottom of Group C with just one win in four. The Devils sit sixth in the ten-team Elite League having played a single game more recording two wins and a loss.

With sixty games to play in the regular season, it is still a little too early to be making wild predictions as we all know both the Giants and Devils will be right at sharp end of the action.

Last season was a spectacle that in the end worked out rather evenly with the Giants winning the regular season and the Devils triumphing in the playoffs. That was not good enough in the minds of both coaches.

Saturday November 23rd is the first meeting between the two at Cardiff in a Saturday/Sunday double header.

It promises to be full of thrills, spills, and perhaps a little blood as last season's elite pair prepare to destroy the ice. If you plan in tuning in on any weekend this season, make sure it is that one. The Elite League is hotting up and it promises to be one of the best seasons yet.

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