Sheffield Steelers have just One Direction in mind, when they visit Belfast Giants this weekend - and that is to go above them in the League standings.
Giants - who had to postpone their October 23 game with Steelers amid a media storm when pop group One Direction nabbed their SSE Arena date at late notice- are second in the League table. Wins for Sheffield on Friday and Saturday would see the visitors vault over them as both teams seek to cut Cardiff’s lead at the top.
Steelers were beaten in their only game in Belfast so far this season, Giants putting four past goaltender Tyler Plante, who has now left the club.
Coach Paul Thompson believes says several factors lay behind the loss that night, hinting one of the may have been a lack of concentration caused by the One Direction gig, which went ahead the previous evening.
“We didn’t have a great defensive game” he recalled.
“I don’t think our goaltending was very good on that night, either. We never really got going. It was more about One Direction than it was the Sheffield Steelers and the Belfast Giants. We have got to be totally focussed going in.”
Thompson clearly has a great deal of respect for Giants, who beat Coventry Blaze away, 5-2, last Sunday. “They have great depth, their coach is as good as any in the League. They have four blocks that can come at you, we are a little bit short right now” he said.
“We have got to play a crafty, tight game and take our chances when they come and be strong defensively. They have got good speed, they have got good skill and transition.
“Their ‘D’ are really active, they jump into the play, they have a good Power Play, they are a quality club, like all the top clubs are.
“They have a little bit of everything - toughness, speed, size, creativity, strong defence, (Stephen) Murphy is a good goalie, so yeah it’s a big challenge for us. But if we come out the right way there, we are looking good.
Sheffield will have to shackle Belfast’s mercurial 36-year-old James Desmarais. Thompson describes him as “really smart, makes good decisions, really skilled, works his backside off as well.”