It’s fair to say that it’s been a good start to the season for the Belfast Giants.
They’re top of the league with 16 wins in the last 17 games – a remarkable stat considering 15 of their 21 league matches this season have been away from home.
The Giants are also through to the Challenge Cup quarter-finals and have sealed a place in the Continental Cup Super-Final in January.
When we looked ahead to the season back in August we said the Giants would be cautiously optimistic. That would now be an understatement.
A number of players have stepped up this season so it was tough to narrow it down, but here are my top five…
25-year-old Canadian Josh Roach signed as a forward in the summer but has found a place on the blueline as part of the Giants’ top defensive pairing.
In 30 games Roach has three goals and 21 assists, good for 24 points.
He’s also part of the best defensive unit in the country. The Giants have conceded just 40 goals in their 21 EIHL games this season. That’s 15 better than Cardiff who have the next best record, and they’ve played a game less!
Roach also bagged a goal, an assist and a man of the match performance as the Giants reached the Continental Cup Super-Final with wins over Medvescak Zagreb and Ritten Sport last weekend.
Veteran forward Pat Dwyer played over 400 times in the NHL for the Carolina Hurricanes and his class was evident from the get-go in Belfast.
Dwyer was the EIHL’s leading goalscorer until be picked up an injury against Glasgow in mid-October. He missed a few games but he has slotted seamlessly back into the line-up.
He bagged two goals and two assists in three Continental Cup games and in total has 36 points (11G 25A) in just 24 games for the Giants.
If the 35-year-old can maintain that level of output throughout the season, it would go a long way towards more silverware in Belfast.
He’ll also be remembered for one of the Elite League’s best ever disallowed goals. In a match against MK Lightning, the puck got stuck in Dwyer’s kit so he skated, puck and all, into the net. See it for yourself below:
Forward Kyle Baun joined the Giants from the Toronto Marlies – the AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs – in the off-season.
His offensive exploits have been a big part of the Giants’ success so far this season. In 30 games across all competitions, Baun has 20 goals and 13 assists.
He bagged FOUR goals in the 8-1 demolition of title-holders Cardiff a few weeks back. He also netted a crucial game-winner on Saturday against Coventry – unassisted, short-handed, in the last minute.
He’s also the joint top goalscorer in the Elite League, alongside…
Captain Blair Riley is on fire in his third season in Belfast and leads the league in goalscoring along with Baun.
Playing on the Giants’ top line alongside David Rutherford and Darcy Murphy, Riley is only one goal short of his total of 17 for the whole of last season.
The 33-year-old has also notched 18 assists, good for 34 points in just 28 games.
If that top line keeps firing on all cylinders, Riley may well be lifting more silverware next spring.
Canadian netminder Tyler Beskorowany was signed to replace Jackson Whistle in the summer.
Beskorowany put up poor numbers behind an awful Edinburgh Capitals defence last season. However, his form in Germany with the Nürnberg Ice Tigers and Düsseldorfer EG convinced Adam Keefe and Steve Thornton that he was the man to backstop the Giants to success.
So far this decision has been completely vindicated as Beskorowany has put up frankly ridiculous numbers.
In 19 Elite League games, he has a 1.6 Goals Against Average (GGA) and a .945 SVS%. He played in all three Continental Cup matches, with a GGA of 1.68 and a .948 SVS%.
Beskorowany has been the Elite League’s outstanding netminder this season and his form could go a long way to deciding the destination of the title.