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Monday, August 16, 2010

Season Preview: – Belfast Giants

Belfast start the season with a new coach as Doug Christiansen makes the move from the Edinburgh Capitals.  Christiansen has been well thought of having kept a low budget Caps respectable by signing players such as Cody Rudcowsky, Mark Hurtubise and Colin Hemmingway who have turned out to be among the best in the league. Belfast clearly hope that with a bigger budget, Christiansen can bring in players of similar quality and a league title to go with it.

GOAL
In goal Stephen Murphy and Nathan Craze both return. Murphy provides the Giants with a solid number one, and was one of the better netminders in the league last year. With a good team in front of him, he is certainly capable of backstopping the Giants to a title. Craze is one of the best backups in the league and will give Murphy the odd night off when needed, while allowing the Giants to stay competitive.

DEFENCE
With a British number one goalie, the Giants can go with the extra import outskater giving them five import defensemen.  Local lad Graeme Walton returns for his 8th season with the Giants, while Tim Cook, one of the leagues best defensemen last year, is back for a second season.  Jeff Mason joins after splitting last season between the ECHL and Germany, and should add some offence to the Belfast blue line while Jon Gleed, Mike Hoffman and Rich Seeley all have good AHL pedigree giving the Giants a solid back line. Hoffman in particular will add size and toughness to the Giants defence.

FORWARDS
Belfast have a history of putting offensively minded and talented teams on the ice and this season looks to be no exception. Their Brits are as good as any in the league with last seasons top scorer Colin Shields back for another season. Craig Peacock also returns following an impressive rookie year scoring over 20 goals and the Giants will be hoping he continues to develop in to a top player. Mark Garside follows Christiansen from Edinburgh after having had a career year last season giving the Giants three good Brits all capable of putting up decent numbers.  Another former Capital, Colin Hemingway also rejoins his former coach. Christiansen will be hoping he can produce similar numbers he did with the Caps where Hemingway was among the leagues leading scorers with over 30 goals and 60 points. Hemingway is joined by his brother Brett, who also should put up decent numbers in the EIHL. Continuing the theme, Dan Welch also joins from Edinburgh and is another proven talent at this level capable of averaging a point per game. Another familiar face is Brandon Benedict, one of the Giants leading scorers last year despite missing 13 games through injury. The roster is completed by newcomers Josh Prudden and Mike Bayrack. Giants will be hoping last year was a minor blip for Prudden in the points department who has had a solid career mainly in the AHL. Bayrack too should provide plenty of offence having had a solid career in the ECHL.

SUMMARY
On paper this Giants team is the team to beat and should be favourites for the title. Solid if not spectacular goaltending is backed up with a very strong defence while every one of their forwards looks like they should be playing on one of the top two lines. While some teams of filled with ECHL and CHL standard players, many of the Giants come from an AHL background and its this strength in depth that could leave some teams in for some long nights. If this team gels they could win everything in sight.

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