Gi­ants on right road de­spite set­backs: Rutherford

Belfast Telegraph - - SPORT - BY ADAM McKENDRY

DE­SPITE los­ing back-to-back games in the Elite League for the first time since Septem­ber 22, Belfast Gi­ants for­ward David Rutherford is fo­cus­ing on the big­ger pic­ture.

The Gi­ants still lead the league by a point fol­low­ing their de­feats by the Sh­effield Steel­ers and the Dundee Stars, largely in part to an in­cred­i­ble 12 wins from 15 away matches in the league, with a Chal­lenge Cup quar­ter-fi­nal win thrown in there too.

This week­end, that road trip comes to an end when they wel­come the Cardiff Devils to the SSE Arena to­mor­row, but be­fore that they travel to the Guild­ford Flames tonight (face-off 6pm) for the last of their 16 con­sec­u­tive league games on the road.

And Rutherford, who leads Belfast this sea­son with 21 as­sists in 24 games, be­lieves they can take a lot of con­fi­dence from their road form re­gard­less of re­cent re­sults.

“If you’d said we’d be where we are at the end of this long road trip at the start of the sea­son then ev­ery­one would be pretty happy,” ad­mits the Cana­dian winger.

“But we don’t want to just be sat­is­fied, we’re only one third of the way through the sea­son and it’s a grind. We’ve got to be consistent, that’s the key.

“It’s a marathon here, we’ve got to keep play­ing the right way and keep play­ing well for our goal­tenders too, Besko’s been the back­bone of our team this year and we need that. We’ve been for­tu­nate to have great team sup­port, and guys just want to keep go­ing.

“It’s fun when you’re win­ning, things are more en­joy­able when you’re win­ning, so we’ll try to get back to it and get on an­other win­ning streak.”

This sea­son, Rutherford has formed a strong part­ner­ship with cap­tain Blair Ri­ley and Darcy Mur­phy (right) in a top line that has been fir­ing on all cylin­ders.

The trio are the Gi­ants’ top three point scor­ers this sea­son, com­bin­ing for 91 in the league, and Rutherford is full of praise for his skilled line partners.

“This is the third year I’ve played with Blair, he works his tail off and is one of the most un­der-rated play­ers in the league, when he’s on form it makes the game so much eas­ier for me,” praises Rutherford.

“Murph is just a pure scorer — you give him the puck, he’s fast, he makes plays, he opens up. We all feed off each other, they’re great play­ers to play with and they make the game eas­ier for me.”

This week will be a huge chal­lenge, with the Flames so strong at the Spec­trum and the Devils, the de­fend­ing league cham­pi­ons, finding a bit of form re­cently af­ter a tough stretch.

How­ever, it’s an op­por­tu­nity for the Gi­ants to get back on that win­ning run, as well as putting some dis­tance be­tween them­selves and the chas­ing pack again.

“Guild­ford, can’t say enough about them, they’re a great team. I know (John) Dun­bar and (Jesse) Craige over there, those guys fly around like lit­tle wa­ter­bugs, so you have to be ready to go and you have to be rested be­cause they’re a fast team,” says Rutherford.

“I’m never go­ing to un­der­es­ti­mate Cardiff.

“They’re on a tough run and yet they’re only two points out of first place, so I’d hate to see them at a good time!

“It’s a grind, they’ve played a lot of hockey and they’ve been good for two or three years now, and they’re still good.

“They’re prob­a­bly laugh­ing see­ing peo­ple think they’re out of things, so I’m not go­ing to take them for granted and I don’t think any­one in our dress­ing room is go­ing to ei­ther.”

Fo­cused: David Rutherford

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