BELFAST – The new champion of the United Kingdom’s Elite League comes from Northern Ireland. The Belfast Giants claimed the national title setting a new franchise points record.
Although there will be a playoff competition for the top-4 team staged at a weekend tournament on 7/8 April in Nottingham, the national champion is determined in the regular season in the motherland of football.
And while the regular season is not over yet, the current standings tell a clear message: 1st Belfast Giants, 93 points, 2nd Sheffield Steelers, 82 points, 3rd Nottingham Panthers, 77 points.
The Giants claimed the Monteith Bowl for the third time in club history with two wins last weekend. First they clinched the championship on home ice in front of a capacity crowd of 7,000 spectators by defeating the Sheffield Steelers 5-1. The day after they showed no sign of a hangover defeating the same opponent 5-2 to extend their streak to 16 wins.
When Austrian national team player Jeremy Rebek hoisted the trophy, it was the first time since 2006 the Giants had won the championship.
“The one thing that this team has is heart. You see it every single night; you saw it all year. You saw it on the road; you saw it at practice,” head coach Doug Christiansen told UTV. “I'm very fortunate to have been able to have been a part of it.”
The Giants were gigantic in any aspect. They conceded just 99 goals in 53 games, fewer than any other team. And they scored more goals than any other team, 233, despite having no player among the top-10 scorers in the league, a testament to the depth of this squad.
English forward Craig Peacock, who joined the team from his native Peterborough in 2009, was the Giants’ scoring leader with 71 points (26+45) before Robert Dowd with 70 points (36+34), who switched sides after five years with the Sheffield Steelers.
The league’s scoring leader is former Canadian minor league player Jade Galbraith with 98 points (37+61).
Scotsman Stephen Murphy, who’s also the national team goalie, leads the goalkeeper stats with a goal-against average of 1.94 and a 92.2 save percentage.