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Giants to face Cardiff in Challenge Cup quarter-finals

Adam Keefe's Belfast Giants will take on Cardiff Devils in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals. Credit: Presseye

The Belfast Giants, the two-time defending Challenge Cup champions, will face the Cardiff Devils in this season’s quarter-finals.

The seeded teams were able to pick their opponents, leaving Belfast and Cardiff to form the final tie.

Dundee Stars will take on Glasgow Clan in an all-Scottish battle, while Guildford Flames chose to face Nottingham Panthers, and Sheffield Steelers picked Manchester Storm.

The Giants will host Cardiff in Belfast for the first leg at 7.30pm on Wednesday 11 December, before playing the return game in Cardiff a week later.

Last season, the Giants beat Guildford Flames in the final to take the trophy, while they won out over Cardiff the year before that.

The Giants, who are also the reigning Elite League champions, have been struggling to find their form this season – sitting mid-table, albeit with games in hand.

Head coach Adam Keefe recently made some changes to the line-up, bringing in a new signing in American forward David Goodwin.

The organisation also released forward Jean Dupuy and defenceman Jesse Forsberg.

They are next in action in back-to-back league clashes with the Devils, their future Challenge Cup opponents, in Cardiff on both Saturday and Sunday.

It will be the first time the Giants have come up against former captain Blair Riley since his move to the Welsh side in the off-season.

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For fans unable to travel and missing their hockey fix while the Giants are in action in a string of games on the road – not returning to home action until 6 December – there are still options.

The Friendship Four comes to the SSE Arena over 29 and 30 November, giving fans the opportunity to see fast-paced NCAA hockey.

The annual tournament, now in its fifth year, brings prestigious college hockey to Belfast – the only such games to be played outside the US.

This year Northeastern University’s Huskies, the University of New Hampshire’s WIldcats, Princeton University’s Tigers, and Colgate University’s Raiders will battle it out for the Belpot trophy – a reclaimed east Belfast school bell.

The Friendship Four is as much about outreach and education as it is about the action on the ice, strengthening ties with the US as part of the Sister Cities project.

It opens up local school children to new experiences as they enjoy visits from the college teams before cheering on their new buddies when they take to the ice.

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Meanwhile, it has been a big week for the Keefe family – with the Belfast head coach Adam’s brother taking up the reins of a NHL side.

Sheldon Keefe has been named head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, following the sacking of Mike Babcock.

The 39-year-old was in his fifth season with the Leafs affiliate AHL side, the Toronto Marlies, when he got the call-up.

“Sheldon’s record with the Marlies, in terms of development and on-ice success during his time in our organisation, has compelled us all to feel that he is the right person to take us to the next stage in our evolution,” Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said.

The Keefe family hail from Brampton, just outside Toronto, and, back in Belfast, Adam Keefe declared he “couldn’t be more proud and excited” for his brother.

Giants fans have long enjoyed their “Keefe era”, which has given them a talisman player, who was known for his leadership as captain and who has brought silverware back to the team as head coach.

Now, it seems another Keefe era is just beginning in the world’s top hockey league.

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