Tuesday sees the Stena Line Belfast Giants return to Champions Hockey League action with a clash against the top seeds in Group C, Lulea, in Belfast – face-off 7:30pm.
Lulea, who finished second in last season’s Swedish Elite League, are former winners of the Champions Hockey League having defeated their domestic rivals Frolunda in the 2015 final.
Tickets for Tuesday’s big game at The SSE Arena are on sale now from Ticketmaster.ie. Fans who cannot make it to the game can watch live on FreeSports TV.
The Giants move into their final two group games still with a chance of advancing to the playoffs thanks to an impressive home win over the Czech Republic’s Liberec as well as taking a point from the overtime home defeat to Augsburg of Germany.
“We spoke at the beginning of our season that we would need to be at our best to compete with these teams in the Champions League. Lulea are the best team in our group and probably the fastest too. We need to be defensively tight against them and we will have to take our chances.”
“We believe we can compete with them. We will need to be ready to go and be at our best against Lulea.”
A regulation win on Tuesday would see the Giants move to within one point of the former Champions League winners though Coach Keefe is focusing on breaking down the game so that he and his team can focus on the tough job at hand.
“Right now we are just taking it one period at a time. We want to be solid in the opening 20 minutes and play tight on them. If we do that, i’m confident we will be in this game and then it is about us taking advantage of our looks and putting the puck in the back of the net.”
Captain Matt Pelech will sit out the Lulea game in Belfast as he serves the second of his two game suspension following an incident in the Liberec away game. Although missing the Captain is a blow to the Giants – Keefe says that other players will get their opportunity to impress.
“Obviously we are one less guy in the lineup which gives more ice time for certain guys in certain areas. This is an opportunity for guys to step up. Being a Champions League game – this is a great opportunity for our players.”
“This gives us a little bit of a break from the league after a tough defeat to Dundee and where we are sitting with the Challenge Cup. We can turn that off for now and focus completely on Lulea.”