Belfast Giants beaten by Braehead Clan but ready to bounce back
Steve Thornton looked on the bright side of his Belfast Giants team's 4-3 overtime defeat to Braehead Clan.
That's because it could have been worse – a lot worse.
The Giants trailed 2-0 at the end of the first period and were then a further goal behind with less than four minutes of the second remaining.
That was when the fighting spirit that played a major part in last season's Elite League title success kicked in.
The club's all-time leading goalscorer Colin Shields added another to his tally and then five minutes into the third period he scored his second of the night on the powerplay.
There were only 81 seconds left on the clock, with it looking like the Giants were about to let the game slip, when Shields got involved again, setting up Jeff Mason, who celebrated the birth of his first child last weekend with the equalising goal.
The Giants weren't able to complete the job, as just 34 seconds into the overtime period Neill Trimm scored Braehead's winner.
It wasn't without controversy though as an interference penalty against Evan Cheverie two seconds before the end of regulation time meant that the Giants started the five added minutes with just three skaters on the ice.
"We dug ourselves a hole with the start that we had," said Thornton.
"We were very, very loose for the first five to seven minutes of the game.
"It was great to see the guys, short rostered, battle back.
"It could have been ugly after the start, so I think that says a lot about the character of the team, getting a point with a short rostered in a Challenge Cup game and I am comfortable with that."
Bagging one Challenge Cup point wasn't a disaster, but the main thing that pleased Thornton was a display of grit and determination from his team – attributes that they will no doubt need to call on again as the season progresses.
"There are a lot of positives that we can take from that. The never say die attitude that was just great to see," said Thornton.
"I think that's why they won so many games last year because they found a way and they found a way to get back into the game.
"It's a shame that it ended on a powerplay in overtime, but there are a lot of things we need to work on."
Mark Garside, Mark McCutcheon and Cody Brookwell missed the weekend games, which included an 8-2 league win over Edinburgh on Friday.
Thornton now hopes to have them in the team to face Sheffield on Saturday.
"We are in a good position right now," he said.
"We got the two league points which was our priority this weekend and we have some big games coming up. We are hoping to get some good news.
"I don't think we have anyone who is too serious. They are the kind of injuries that if you rush them back then they could turn serious.
"We're going to get scans on some guys and hopefully the healing will have happened and we can get back to more than two lines and four defencemen and a place where guys are fighting for their place."