Giants defeat tough to take but Walser proud of team

Belfast Giants player-coach Derrick Walser is considering hanging up his skates. Credit: Dean Woolley

By Victoria Steveley

Belfast Giants player-coach Derrick Walser has told UTV he can be nothing but proud of his team, despite the hurt of missing out on a place in the finals of the Playoffs.

On what was a frustrating night for his side, the Giants out-shot the Sheffield Steelers and yet lost out 2-0 thanks to a goal from Guillaume Desbiens and a last-ditch Levi Nelson empty-netter.

“It’s been our Achilles heel all year - that big, big game, we come up short. And we came up short again today,” Walser said.

“It hurts. But I can’t look at my guys and be mad at them – they gave 100%.”

Rather than point fingers at his team, Walser added that he had to tip his hat to Sheffield for grinding out a result in a tight-run game.

He was left ruing a too-many-men penalty in the dying minutes though, which ultimately helped seal the Giants’ fate as they tried to kill the penalty while still chasing a one-goal deficit.

Forced to pull netminder Stephen Murphy to try to at least tie up the game and force it into overtime, they only ended up conceding the empty-net goal that gave Sheffield the win.

“I thought we had a chance …” Walser said.

“But we went out and we competed for 60 minutes and came up short. That’s life. Life is tough as a hockey player, especially doing both (playing and coaching).

“I’m proud of the team. I couldn’t ask for a better group. I’m just disappointed we don’t have something to lift up and remember this down the road.”

It is a tough way to end the season and Walser said playing in a third and fourth place decider was a tough ask when the players had been left so bitterly disappointed.

As for what the future holds, the 38-year-old admitted he was leaning more towards retiring as a player and would have to think about that sooner rather than later.

“If they want me back, we’ll talk,” Walser said, adding that his family do love Northern Ireland.

“If they’ll give me the opportunity to coach full-time, it’d be very hard for me to say no.

“But if they want me to do both, I’d have to take some time to think about it.”

Hailing the Giants fans for their support, Walser said his most poignant memories would be playing in what could be some of his last games – back home in Belfast in front of his parents, wife and children, and in Nottingham despite the end result.

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